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Skip to main contentBoundless BiologyThe Animal Body: Basic Form and FunctionSearch for:Animal Form and FunctionCharacteristics of the Animal BodyEvery animal has a distinct body plan, adapted in response to environmental pressures, that limits its sizeand shape.Learning ObjectivesDescribe how form and function are related in an organismKey TakeawaysKey PointsA body plan encompasses symmetry, segmentation, and limb disposition.Almost all animals have bodies made of differentiated tissues, which in turn form organs andorgan systems.Animal bodies have evolved to interact with their environments in ways that enhance survival andreproduction.Key Termsphysiology: a branch of biology that deals with the functions and activities of life or of livingmatter (as organs, tissues, or cells) and of the physical and chemical phenomena involvedbody plan: an assemblage of morphological features shared among many members of a phylum-level groupanatomy: the art of studying the different parts of any organized body, to discover their situation,structure, and economy; dissectionAnimal Form and FunctionAnimals vary in form and function. From a sponge to a worm to a goat, an organism has a distinct bodyplan that limits its size and shape. The term body plan is the “blueprint” encompassing aspects such assymmetry, segmentation, and limb disposition. Body plans have been considered to have evolved in ageologically-sudden flash during the Cambrian Explosion (roughly 542 million years ago). However,there is also evidence of a more gradual development of body plans. With a few exceptions, most notablythe sponges and Placozoa, animals have bodies differentiated into separate tissues, which in turn make upmore complex organs and organ systems. These include tissues such as muscles, which are able toSearch
contract and control locomotion, and nerves, which send and process signals. Typically, there is also aninternal digestive chamber with one or two openings. Animals’ bodies are also designed to interact withtheir environments, whether in the deep sea, a rainforest canopy, or the desert. In addition, animal bodyplans have evolved in response to environmental pressures, as observed in fossil records, in order toenhance survival and reproductive success. Therefore, a large amount of information about the structureof an organism’s body (anatomy) and the function of its cells, tissues, and organs (physiology) can belearned by studying that organism’s environment. The arctic fox is an example of a complex animal thathas adapted to its environment and illustrates the relationships between an animal’s form and function.Arctic fox: An arctic fox is a complex animal, well adapted to its environment. It changes coat color withthe seasons and has longer fur in winter to trap heat.

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Term
Fall
Professor
NoProfessor
Tags
Anatomy, Anatomical terms of location, Coronal plane, Sagittal plane, OpenStax College

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