Osmosis vs. diffusion is misleading as far as titles go. Both are kinds of passive transport. Passive transport is the gradual movement of molecules from one concentration to another until they are equalized, or at least that’s the shortest definition. Osmosis and diffusion are two ways to accomplish this equilibrium.
Both of these types of passive transport are meant to maintain equilibrium between things like gases, nutrients, water, and some wastes. This is the primary way cells maintain a balance between themselves and extracellular fluids. Both osmosis and diffusion cease once the concentration on both sides of a membrane, like a cell wall, are equalized.
What Exactly is Osmosis?
Osmosis is the movement of water, and some other liquids, across a semipermeable membrane such as a cell wall. Osmosis doesn’t require extra energy or pressure to occur. It’s one type of passive transport that allows some cells to move nutrients in or wastes out without using the body’s precious energy reserves. Osmosis moves down the concentration gradient.
Osmosis usually happens when water outside, or inside, a cell is more concentrated and helps move nutrients and wastes in and out of the cell. This is a crucial way cells are fed or grow. Osmosis isn't just about feeding cells and helping them develop. It can occur between two compartments when the water level in one cell is higher, or a concentration of elements is suspended in water outside a cell.
In mammals, osmosis effects the number of nutrients, typically, inside or outside a cell. Through osmosis, cells maintain a steady flow of nutrients into the cavity for repairs or growth. It's only the primary way cells get rid of wastes. In plants, osmosis is usually the only way water is absorbed from the ground and sent up the plant to feed cells. Osmosis does not work without water.
Diffusion is the movement of particles from an area where the particles are dense to an area where the particles are less think. A great example of it is coffee creamer. At first, the creamer is localized to the spot where you poured it in, but after a few minutes, it invades every other part of your coffee cup. Another good example is muddy water mixing with clean water.
Diffusion typically occurs when gases or liquids are directly mixed in varying concentrations. If a membrane or other divider is removed allowing two vapors or liquids to mingle, diffusion is the result once the gas or liquid levels are balanced again. It is significant to body systems responsible for energy production.
Diffusion helps animals and plants maintain life and produce energy. When you breathe, you are using diffusion to keep oxygen flowing in and out of your body. It also helps regulate heat in animals that lack skin pores and sweat glands like dogs. it is essential to plants during their photosynthesis processes. It helps keep their upper levels watered as well.
Osmosis vs. Diffusion Methods
During Osmosis, water molecules pass freely through any semipermeable membrane. This process is spontaneous in both directions until the water concentration on both sides of the layer are equal. The sole purpose of osmosis in cells is to facilitate the movement of nutrients and wastes from outside to inside cells. It regulates the cells hydration during the process as a byproduct.
Anytime the area around the outside of a cell, or a neighboring cell, has a higher concentration of water, osmosis will spontaneously occur until the concentration of water matches on both sides of the cell wall membrane. The same is true if there is more water inside the cell than outside. Osmosis only occurs in the presence of water.
Osmosis also causes cells to swell or deflate based on the amount of water inside or outside the cell. If more water resides outside the cell wall, the cell loses water and tends to shrink. The opposite occurs if more water is outside the cell walls. If the concentration of water remains the same inside and outside, the cell stays the same size and osmosis does not happen. Osmosis always occurs from the lowest to the highest level.
Diffusion is spontaneous just like osmosis but does not require a membrane to pass through. Particles or molecules spread from high concentration areas to low concentration areas. Diffusion creates entropy because it's random. There's no measured transfer; it just happens until everything is mixed well. The mixtures that diffuse do become diluted in the process.
Diffusion follows the Second Law of Thermodynamics because it results in a less concentrated area of energy when it completes. It is the nature of diffusion to introduce randomness and reduce concentrations. It's the process that allows us to breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. The level of oxygen in the air outside our body is higher than it is in our lungs. Diffusion lets us equalize the two.
Osmosis plays a prominent role in the distribution of nutrients and wastes in plants and animals. It helps cells function by supplying them with water and nutrients while removing metabolic wastes from inside the cell. In plants, it takes on additional roles to help the plants get water and nutrients from the soil and move them up the plant.
Diffusion can happen through a semipermeable membrane just like osmosis, but it doesn’t require one to work. While osmosis primarily helps cells move nutrients and wastes around, diffusion helps other particles and molecules such as gases pass through cell walls. Both osmosis and diffusion are necessary to continue life.
The Different Types of Osmosis and Diffusion
There are only two types of true osmosis, forward osmosis and reverse osmosis. Forward osmosis forces lower concentrated particles to move into higher concentrated areas. This is the primary version of osmosis used to filter things like water in nature. Where regular, or reverse, osmosis tends to push particles around, forward osmosis pulls them in. Forward and reverse osmosis are easy to get confused.
Reverse osmosis works off osmotic pressure. When the concentration of water outside, or inside, a membrane reaches a higher level than its neighbor, osmosis is triggered. If osmosis is possible, it usually prevents diffusion from taking place at the same time. Thus, reverse osmosis can be affected by volumetric and atmospheric pressure to force fluids through a membrane to create a forced filtering process.
There are several different types of diffusion:
Self-diffusion: measures how much diffusion will occur even with a chemical is at a neutral state.
Reverse diffusion: very similar to forward osmosis but relates to more particles such as gases.
Photon diffusion: the movement of light through an object and how the object scatters the light.
Momentum diffusion: the spread of liquids, mostly, based on the thickness of the liquid. Thicker liquids create higher momentum diffusion.
Gaseous diffusion: mainly used to enrich uranium for nuclear reactors and weapons.
Knudsen diffusion: a measure of how a particle reacts to a membrane based on the size of the membrane’s pores and the size of the particle.
Facilitated diffusion: the spontaneous movement of molecules through a cell membrane at times when osmosis and other forms of diffusion are inhibited.
Electron diffusion: the movement of electrons to create an electric current.
Effusion: occurs when a gas is filtered through small holes.
Surface diffusion: occurs when a dry, powdery substance falls onto the surface of a liquid.
Collective diffusion: the diffusion of large quantities of particles within a substance that aid each other in moving about the material.
Osmosis: actually just another form of diffusion.
Examples of Diffusion
Diffusion happens all around and inside us all the time. If you drink tea or coffee, when you add sugar or creamer to them it diffuses until the whole cup is sweeter or creamier. The aroma from air fresheners or cooking food diffuses in the air and invades every room it can reach in your home. These are great examples of passive diffusion since no energy is needed to accomplish diffusion this way.
Plants and animals use diffusion to breathe. Animals draw air into their lungs where it diffuses with the air already in their lungs. This is how we get oxygen into our lungs, and it's how we get rid of respiratory wastes like carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide entering a plant’s stomata or oxygen leaving their stomata is how a plant uses diffusion to breathe.
Examples of Osmosis
Probably one of the best examples of osmosis is water and nutrients entering a plant's roots from the soil. Animals use osmosis in a similar way except we absorb nutrients and water throughout our digestive system. Unlike plants, animals eat or drink water and nutrients before they consume them for use by cells to grow and repair themselves.
Some Final Notes
The biggest differences between osmosis and diffusion are how plants and animals use these processes to sustain life. Most kinds of diffusion are similar, and osmosis is technically just another form of diffusion. We use diffusion and osmosis all the time, and most people don't realize it. It occurs naturally, and it's manufactured, but it's necessary for life to exist.
How much do you know about molecular geometry definition and the shapes of molecules in chemistry? Join us as we define this subject, go over some examples, and list the different structures you will find in an electron and molecular geometry chart. We have also included some study guides to help you go further.
Molecular Geometry Chart: Definition, Examples, and Study Guides
Molecular geometry is typically taught in college and advanced high school classes. This subject uses geometric models to represent the shape and structure of molecules. It allows scientists to get a precise idea of how the number of atoms and electrons are connected. There are also some rules that help scientists predict which shape a molecule will adopt. There are a huge number of molecules and sequences that can be analyzed. From looking at the number of atoms around a molecule to more difficult structures such as DNA sequence – there are many areas of molecular and electron geometry to explore.
What is a Molecular Geometry Chart?
Molecular geometry is the science of representing molecules in a three-dimensional manner. A molecular geometry chart is a collection of rules on how molecules and electrons will connect and shape a molecule.
Students and scientists can use these charts to create three-dimensional diagrams that represent molecules. These visual representations are interesting because they help students and scientists predict the shape, polarity, and biological activities of a molecule.
These representations can also help with other concepts, such as:
Phase of matter.
Molecular geometry can be applied regardless of how complex a molecule is. Students will typically work with simple models at first before learning how to apply these concepts to create detailed models of more complex molecules.
Common Molecular Structures
Molecules obey certain laws when atoms and electrons connect with each other. Molecules will form specific shapes. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with these common shapes so you can determine the correct one.
You are probably already familiar with these structures if you have been studying chemistry for a while. Most students have an understanding of these structures thanks to the visual representations of molecules shown in class or textbooks even though they might not know about the rules of molecular geometry.
Polar And Non-Polar Molecules
Certain molecules can be grouped as either polar or non-polar. Other molecules fall between the two.
The geometry of atoms in some molecules is arranged in such a way that one side has a negative charge and the other side has a positive electrical charge. In this case, this type of molecule is called a polar molecule. This means that it has electrical poles. Molecules that aren’t arranged in this way are called non-polar molecules.
Not every molecule that has polar bonds is a polar molecule. For example, carbon dioxide has two polar bonds (C O). However, the molecular geometry of carbon dioxide is linear. This means that the two bonds cancel each other out, resulting in the molecule being non-polar.
What is electronegativity and why does it vary around a molecular geometry chart? Electronegativity is defined as the measure of the tendency of an atom to attract a bonding pair of electrons.
If two atoms are equally electronegative, then both of those atoms have the same tendency to attract a pair of bonding electrons, and therefore it will be found on average halfway between the two atoms. To get a bond such as this, both atoms would usually be the same atom.
If one of the atoms is slightly more electronegative than the other, this will mean that one of the atoms has a fair share of electron density, and this results in that atom becoming slightly negative. At the same time, the opposing atom will become slightly positive. This is a polar bond.
If one of the atoms is incredibly more electronegative than the other, this will result in the electron pair being dragged right over to that electronegative atom. This means that the other atom loses all control of its electron, and the electronegative atom has complete control over both electrons. This results in ions being formed and is called an ionic bond.
Lewis Theory And Valence-Shell Electron-Pair Repulsion Theory
You can’t gain a thorough understanding of molecular geometry without studying the Lewis theory and the Valence-shell electron-pair repulsion theory.
The Lewis theory is about how valence shell electrons bond with an atom. This approach represents atoms and electrons in a two-dimensional manner. You will often start with this simple visual representation called a Lewis structure to determine the correct three-dimensional structure for a molecule.
You can create a Lewis structure electron dot diagram by simply writing the symbol for the atom you want to represent. You would then add dots to represent the valence shell electrons connected to the atom.
A valence electron is an electron located in the outer shell of the atom. It is common to omit the electrons that aren’t connected to the outer shells of an atom since they won’t form bonds with other elements and would only make Lewis structure diagrams more complicated. If a shell is closed, the electrons that can be found in this shell won’t be shown on a Lewis electron dot diagram.
In a Lewis structure, you can place the dots on any side of the symbol. However, you can’t have more than two dots per side.
The Valence shell electron-pair repulsion theory states that electrons will naturally repel each other. This applies regardless of the type of pairs they form.
Electrons can form bonded pairs, lone pairs, double bonds, triple bonds, or exist as single unpaired electrons. They will position themselves around an atom so that there is as much space as possible between them. In molecular geometry, each pair or single unpaired electron counts as an electron group.
This natural behavior reduces repulsion between electrons and maximizes the space available to attract other elements the electrons can bond with.
The Valence-shell electron-pair repulsion theory is important vital in the context of molecular geometry because it will help you figure out the angle of the different bonds that exist around an atom. You can use this theory to deduce the structure of a molecule.
Molecular Geometry Structures And Atom Groups
You can determine the structure and shape of a molecule once you know about the atoms that make up this molecule, how many electrons are connected to these atoms, and which type of bond these electrons form.
These are the different structures molecules can adopt:
If you have an atom with two electron groups, the molecule will adopt take a linear structure.
If you have three electron groups, you will have a trigonal-planar structure.
The molecule will adopt a bent structure if there are three groups of electrons with a lone pair.
If there are four groups of electrons, the molecule will have a tetrahedral shape.
A molecule with four groups of electrons and a lone pair of electrons will take the shape of a trigonal pyramid.
If you have four groups of electrons and two lone pairs, the molecule will have a bent structure.
A molecule with five electron groups will adopt a trigonal-bipyramidal structure.
If there are five electron groups and a lone pair of electrons, the molecule will have a seesaw structure.
A molecule with five electron groups and two lone pairs, the molecule will be T-shape shaped.
If there are five electron groups and three lone pairs, you will have a linear structure.
A molecule with six electron groups will have an octahedral shape.
A molecule with six electron groups and a lone pair will be shaped like a square pyramid.
If you have six electron groups and two lone pairs, the molecule will adopt a square planar structure.
These thirteen different scenarios cover all the different structures you will encounter in molecular geometry. You don’t need to learn them by heart since you can easily deduct the structure that makes the most sense by applying the Valence-shell electron-pair repulsion theory.
Molecules With More Than One Atom
The molecular geometry chart still applies if you have a molecule with more than one atom. The structure will be more complex and will probably combine different geometric shapes.
If you have a complex molecule, break it down into smaller section and look at each atom individually. Determine how the electrons will connect to this atom in function of the type of bond they form and of the number of electron groups.
You can use molecular geometry rules to determine the shape and structure of each atom and its electrons. You can then apply the Valence-shell electron-pair repulsion theory to determine how these different small structures will connect to each other to form a more complex molecule.
An ion is defined as a molecule or atom which has acquired an electrical charge due to gaining or losing electrons. Polyatomic ion charges are ones which are composed of two or more atoms. When a polyatomic ion is involved in a chemical reaction, the oxidation number of it plays a significant role. This is a number which is either negative, positive, or zero. This oxidation number is an indication of the number of electrons in which an ion can share, lose, or gain when chemically reacting which an atom, compound, molecule, or with another ion. The oxidation number of a polyatomic ion is worked out at the sum of the oxidation numbers that belong to its constituent atoms. This is equal to the positive charge, negative charge or neutral charge that exists on the ion.
A diatomic molecule consists of two atoms. The majority of diatomic molecules are ones of the same element, however, a few combine different elements. Most diatomic molecules are gases at room temperature.
Octahedral Molecular Geometry
Octahedral molecular geometry refers to the shape of the compounds that have six atoms or ligands symmetrically arranged around a central atom. This defines the vertices of an octahedral shape. The octahedron is platonic solid, even though octahedral molecules tend to have a central atom and no bonds. The term “octahedral” is a loosely used term amongst scientists, as it focuses purely on the geometry of bonds to the central atom, rather than looking at the differences in the ligands.
Bond Angles And Three-Dimensional Geometry
Students often make the mistake of thinking in two dimensions when determining bond angles. Electrons will position themselves to be as far away from each other as possible, but keep in mind that they will do this on a three-dimensional plane. A molecular geometry chart with bond angles will help to clarify these structures.
Working with three-dimensional models is a great way to get used to thinking about geometry in a three-dimensional plane. There are also apps and software you can use to create virtual models and get used to these concepts.
What is the Difference Between Electron-Pair Geometry and Molecular Structure?
Electron geometry is the term used for the geometry of the electron pair located on the central atom. This applies whether they are bonding electrons or non-bonding electrons. The definitions of an electron pair is electrons that are in pairs or multiple bonds, lone pairs and sometimes even just one single electron that is unpaired. Electrons are always in constant motion and it can be difficult to determine the path that they are going to take. With this in mind, the arrangement of electrons within a molecule is defined by electron density distribution.
An Example of Electron Geometry
We will use CH4 as an example.
The central atom in this example is C, plus there are also four valence shell electrons. The hydrogen atoms give four electrons, so that means that there are a total of eight electrons around C. In this example, the single number of bonds are four, and the number of lone pairs here is zero. So with this in mind, we can determine here that the electron geometry of CH4 is tetrahedral.
Molecular geometry is the term used when determining the shape of a molecule. This refers to the three-dimensional structure or arrangement of the atoms within a molecule. There is usually a central atom which is surrounded by electrons. When we understand the molecular geometry of a compound, this makes it much easier to determine the magnetism, phase of matter, polarity, color, and reactivity of that compound. The geometry of molecules is often described using bond lengths, bond angles, and torsional angles. With smaller molecules, simply the molecular formula, along with a table of angles and standard bond lengths may be all that is needed to determine the geometry of that particular molecule. It is predicted by looking at only the electron pairs, which is what makes molecular geometry different from electron geometry.
An Example of Molecular Geometry
We will use H2O as an example.
H2O is a common polar molecule. The central atom in this case is the oxygen atom which has six valence electrons. Hydrogen, in this case, gives a total of two electrons, which makes the total overall amount of electrons eight. In this example, there are two lone electron pairs, and four electron groups, as well as two single bond pairs. Therefore, the molecular geometry in this example is bent.
Why Do Most Atoms Form Chemical Bonds?
Most elements contain atoms that form chemical bonds. This is because those atoms become more stable when they are bonded together. Neighbouring atoms are attracted to each other by electrical forces which make them stick together. Atoms that are strongly attractive rarely spend much time on their own – other atoms will usually bond to them quite quickly. The arrangement of electrons around a central atom is what determines the strength in which it seeks out other atoms to bond with.
A chemical bond is formed by the joining of two or more atoms. A stable compound occurs when the total energy of the combined atoms has lower energy than if the atoms were separate. The combined state of these atoms implies there is an attractive force between these atoms – a chemical bond. There are two extreme cases of chemical bonds. These are covalent formula bonds and ionic formula bonds.
A covalent formula bond is one which involves sharing of valence electrons by two atoms. These types of covalent bonding can create stable molecules, as long as they share electrons in a way that creates noble gas electron configuration for each atom.
During chemical bonds, atoms can either share or transfer their valence electrons. In some extreme cases, one or more atoms may lose electrons and then other atoms gain them which produces noble gas electron configuration. The bond in this case is called an ionic bond.
What Is The Difference Between Atomic Orbitals And Molecular Orbitals?
The orbital is a region in which the probability of finding an electron is relatively higher than usual. Atoms have a nucleus and within this nucleus they have their own electrons rotating around. When orbitals are overlapped to create molecules via bonding, these types of orbitals are named molecular orbitals. Molecular orbital theory and valence bond theory both explain the properties of molecular and atomic orbitals. Orbitals can hold two electrons within them maximum. The main difference between molecular orbital calculation and atomic orbital calculation is that electrons within a molecular orbital are influenced by two or more nuclei. This depends on the number of atoms in the molecule. Atomic orbitals are different as they are only influenced by one positive nucleus.
Organic chemistry refers to the study of the composition, structure, properties, preparation, and reactions of compounds which contain carbon. This includes compounds that are not only hydrocarbons, but also compounds which contains a number of other elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, halogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and silicon. This type of chemistry used to only refer to compounds that were produced by living beings. However, it has now been broadened to focus on other substances such as plastics. There is a huge range of organic compounds and these include things such as food, explosives, paints, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Organic chemistry is the best way of creating new compounds. Scientists will develop new and better ways of synthesizing existing compounds with organic chemistry.
There are several study guides on molecular geometry chart information which you can use to go further and practice molecular geometry. This subject gets easier once you start applying it and become familiar with all the different structures molecules can adopt.
You should start by modeling simple molecules or look at three-dimensional models of different molecules to identify their shape and ask yourself what kind of atom groups and bond types caused the molecule to adopt this structure.
Here are a few study guides to help you go further:
This study guide from NYU covers the basics and includes some helpful diagrams of the most common shapes you encounter. We like that the angles are indicated for each diagram.
This study guide from Angelo University goes over the Lewis structures, the types of bonds you will encounter, and talks about exceptions and resonance structures. There are plenty of examples, and this material will help you explore additional concepts.
This tool will show you the angle of the bonds and show models for different molecules if you don’t want to create one from scratch.
This visual tool would be very useful in a classroom when teaching molecular geometry chart information, but you can use it to try and recreate the thirteen different structures that exist in molecular geometry or to try recreating different specific molecules.
Molecular geometry is a fascinating subject. Studying molecular geometry can seem complex at first, but things become easier once you become familiar with the different structures that exist and understand which factors will influence how a molecule is shaped. Make good use of the study guides listed above, and take the time to play with the interactive 3D tool to try different things.
The Calvin Cycle occurs during photosynthesis and consists of light independent redox reactions that convert carbon dioxide into glucose. This conversion happens in the chloroplast, or more specifically the stroma of the chloroplast. The chloroplast region is an area between the thylakoid membrane and the inner membrane of the organelle which is typically located in the leaves of plants.
This cycle used to create carbon sugars, mostly, was discovered by Melvin Calvin, Andrew Benson, and James Bassham in 1950 at the University of California. The used radioactive material to trace the pathways carbon atoms took during the carbon fixation step in plant life.
You've probably heard the Calvin Cycle called a few other names including the CBB Cycle, C3 Cycle, and dark reactions to name a few.
This process of carbon fixing by plants is essential to all life on the planet. Most new organic growth stems from plants converting carbon to sugars either directly or indirectly. Other plants, or animals, can use these sugars to forms more complex sugars and amino acids when they consume them. It all stems from little plants working day and night to capture light and water.
A Technical Take on the Calvin Cycle
The Calvin Cycle occurs during photosynthesis and is repeated until it forms a glucose molecule. Photosynthesis goes through two stages to create food and building materials for plants to grow. During the first stage, chemical reactions from light produce ATP and NADPH. The second stage is when the Calvin Cycle takes place. In this stage, carbon dioxide and water get converted to organic materials like glucose. These reactions are called dark reactions which confuses people, but they do not take place at night.
The short explanation of the Calvin Cycle is that it begins with carbon fixation. Carbon dioxide molecules are plucked out of the air to produce glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate. RuBisCO, an enzyme found abundantly around the planet, brings on the carboxylation of a 5-carbon compound and provides a 6-carbon compound that halves itself form two 3-phosphoglycerate. The enzyme phosphoglycerate kinase uses the phosphorylation to create biphosphoglycerate.
Next, the enzyme glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase uses the reduction of biphosphoglycerate by NADPH. This is called the reduction reactions. Eventually, when the cycle ends, the reactions and reductions produce one glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate molecule per every three carbon dioxide molecules.
That’s a lot of massive words. What that means is the plant uses light and water to convert carbon dioxide into nutrients and oxygen. It takes six turns on the Calvin Cycle for the plant to produce a single glucose molecule. Now that we simplified the process, let's look at the chemical equation for the Calvin Cycle:
3 CO2 + 6 NADPH + 5 H2O + 9 ATP → glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (G3P) + 2 H+ + 6 NADP+ + 9 ADP + 8 Pi (Pi = inorganic phosphate)
The Simplified Function of the Calvin Cycle
How plants create sugar from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide is complicated as you probably noted from the previous section. However, plants toil away day and night creating glucose, starch, and cellulose so they can grow. The Calvin Cycle plucks carbon molecules right out of the air and creates new plant growth.
The Calvin Cycle is vital to every ecosystem, and it reaches far beyond the plants using it. Plants are the building blocks of all the food in any ecosystem. Herbivores eat plants for energy and growth while carnivores eat herbivores for the same reasons. In the end, everything goes back into the ground and plants start the process all over again.
If plants stopped all their hard work tomorrow, it would only take a few days for animals to start feeling the effects and starving. Herbivores lose their food right away. Carnivores would follow behind the herbivores. Plants make most of the basic building blocks we all need to continue life as we know it. Without their hard work, we’d all be doomed.
While plants are supplying us with the building blocks, we need to continue living, and they help out the environment in other ways. Because the Calvin Cycle depends on carbon dioxide, plants indirectly play a role in regulating carbon dioxide and other gases proven to be harmful to the atmosphere. Plants perform an essential role in helping us clean the air we breathe.
The Calvin Cycle Step by Step
Carbon fixation is the first step. We explained it in brutal technical detail above, but let’s look at it in simpler terms in this section. A carbon dioxide molecule is plucked from the air and combined with a five-carbon acceptor molecule called ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate, or RuBP for short. The result is a six-carbon molecule.
The six-carbon molecule is split in half to form a set of new carbon molecules called 3-phosphoglyceric acid, or 3-PGA for short. The new three-carbon molecules are catalyzed by an enzyme called RuBisCo. This creates the simple sugar molecules the Calvin Cycle needs for stage two. On a side note, because it is used by every plant during photosynthesis, the RuBisCo enzyme if the most common catalyst on Earth. The result of this step is passed on to the next phase.
Step two of the Calvin Cycle is called the reduction step. The 3-PGA molecules created in the carbon fixation step are used in phase two to develop glyceraldehyde-3 phosphate or G3P for short. G3P is a simple sugar. This process uses energy and reactions captured during light-dependent stages of photosynthesis.
This step is called the reduction step because electrons are stolen from molecules created during photosynthesis and given to our new sugars. In chemistry, when you take electrons from a molecule, it's called a reduction hence the name of this stage. Technically, the electrons are donated and not taken. Taking electrons by force is called oxidation, and that's not what happens in this stage.
At this point, our plant has created sugar it can store for a long time and use for energy. Anything that eats this plant gets to take advantage of these sugars as well including humans. The plant may choose to use these stored molecules to form new plant materials or repair itself, but that’s not part of the Calvin Cycle so we won’t get into it. This is the end of the sugar-producing phase of the Calvin Cycle.
The final stage of the Calvin Cycle is called the regeneration step. Some of the G3P are held back and not used to make sugars. Instead, they are used to revitalize the five - carbon compound the Calvin Cycle needs to start the process over again. It takes six carbon molecules to make glucose, so plants have to go through the Calvin Cycle six times to make one glucose molecule.
Once the plant has completed this cycle six times, the Calvin Cycle ends and begins again. So, technically, the Calvin Cycle is all three steps done six times each. Plants repeat this process over and over during daylight hours. At night they continue to work making various compounds that don’t require light. This makes plants the most efficient lifeforms on the planet.
Bonus Information About Plants and Their Internal Food Factories
We usually consider waste products bad or at least not edible. However, we need the waste materials plants to produce to survive. An essential waste, or by-product, plants produce is oxygen. While plants are using water and carbon dioxide to make sugars, they release oxygen into the air around them as a waste product.
The delicious fruits and vegetables we all enjoy get most of their flavor from the carbon sugars plants store for energy. From the crunchy stalk of the celery plant to the succulent meat of the peach, plants developed all using just carbon dioxide, water, sunlight, and a few minerals leeched from the soil. I think we can assume these tasty treats are little gifts from the plant kingdom.
The tiny organelles called chloroplasts on the surface of a plant’s leaves can move. Ok, they can’t move individually, but in many plants, they can turn the leaf, so it gets better exposure to sunlight. These plant-based solar cells help capture sunlight so being able to point yourself in the sun makes sense. Some plants take it to another level and bend their stalk or branches to help reach the sunlight.
Some Final Notes
The fantastic plants we ignore all around us are vital to our survival. They use energy from the Sun in little energy reactors called chloroplasts to do all sorts of cool things. If you glance at the bigger picture and oversimplify it, plants take light from the Sun and turn it into carbon sugars they can store for long periods of time. We could call them solar powered batteries if we want to be humorous about the process.
Plants pitch in and help everywhere they can from cleaning the air to enriching the soil they grow in for the next plants. Plants give us so many things from apples to steak. Without plants toiling away at the bottom of the food chain, nothing in the top of the food chain could survive. Every food we consume comes from plants either directly or indirectly.
Earthworms play essential roles in many ecosystems. They help introduce oxygen to the soil and mix it up. As they tunnel through the ground, they enrich the soil and push it toward the surface where it's easier for plants to get to the nutrients. You can see the organs that help these worms do their jobs by dissecting an earthworm.
Safety is critical in all aspects of our lives. It may seem trivial in a controlled environment like a school biology lab, but it's not, and all safety rules should be followed. They are in place to protect you and your classmates, so don't skip any regulations just because you think it will be ok or those rules don't seem to apply to your circumstances. The basic common-sense rules are:
Wear safety gear when necessary like goggles, gloves, and aprons.
Most preserved specimens contain formaldehyde, so wash them first.
Do not play with lab equipment or instruments such as scalpels and scissors.
Do not eat any parts of your specimen. Yes, there is an apparent reason for this rule.
Your lab should have the rules and safety measures available plus your instructor will go over them with you. Don’t assume the only rules are the ones we list here. The type of lab and type of specimen determine the rules. Ask for a copy of the rules if you don’t see one posted in the lab. Your teacher should be close by most of the time to help you guide you as well.
Always wear safety goggles and gloves. If you have to carry a sharp instrument, hold it with the pointed end pointing down and away from your body. Don't rush or run while holding a scalpel or scissors. Never carry a knife or scissors by any part other than the handle. Scalpels are razor sharp, and it only takes a split second for them to cut you open.
Keep your station clean and tend to any spills immediately unless they pose a breathing hazard. Dispose of any blades, gloves, aprons, and specimens according to the established rules in your lab. Your teacher will probably explain all the rules to you, but don’t wait to ask if you aren’t sure what to do. Teachers are there to help educate you and keep you safe.
Earthworm Dissection Guide
Earthworms are great for helping you understand simple organisms and basic anatomy. They'll help you get a grasp on lab safety before you progress to larger specimens like pigs or frogs. As a bonus, they're small and soft, so handling them is much more comfortable as well.
The first step is to examine the exterior of the earthworm. Earthworms are segmented works, so they look like a long stack of small rings. They don't have a head or any limbs, but they do have a fascinating exterior anatomy to study. The anterior end of the earthworm is a little fatter than the posterior. When you locate the anterior end of the work, pin it to the dissecting pan or tray.
Earthworms are annelids which means their bodies are composed of multiple ring-like sections or segments. This part may not be on your teacher's list, but it's always interesting to count the segments while you study the exterior anatomy of the earthworm. While you count, notice the small setae on the ventral surface. These little bristles help the worms move through the dirt with ease.
Each segment along the worm's exterior has small pores. These pores excrete the sticky film you find when you run your finger along a live worm. You may need a magnifying glass or small microscope to see them. It depends on the size of your earthworm specimen and your eyesight as well.
From the anterior end of the worm, count your way down to segment fourteen. Typically, this is where the oviducts are located. The oviducts release the eggs when the worm reproduces. The exciting part is the next segment after the oviducts; it contains the sperm ducts. Earthworms have both male and female reproductive organs.
Further down the worm at segment 31 is the clitellum. It secretes a sticky mucus that binds two earthworms together while the mate. It develops a cocoon to hold the eggs and sperm after mating is finished. Earthworms are simple worms, but fantastic at the same time. Their exterior anatomy is fascinating to study.
Earthworms are hermaphroditic which means they have both female and male reproductive organs. Eggs come from the ovaries inside segment fourteen, sometimes thirteen. It can be hard to count the segments on small worms. Worms have testes which can form in segments near the oviducts. Study these segments and see if you can find the reproductive organs on your specimen.
When worms mate, they get stuck together briefly to help keep the reproductive organs aligned. Sperm from both worms travels into the other worms seminal receptacle. The clitellum creates the cocoon which moves along the outside of the worm to collect the semen and the eggs. The eggs are fertilized outside the worm in the cocoon.
By now, you should have a good understanding of the exterior anatomy of your earthworm specimen. Remove the pin from the anterior end of the earthworm and place it on its ventral side, then put the pin back in the anterior end of the worm. The ventral side of the worm is a little flatter than the dorsal side, and it may be a lighter color.
Carefully and slowly make a shallow incision using your scalpel from the anterior end of the work to the clitellum. Never cut toward your body or fingers. Be extra careful and keep the incision shallow, so you don't cut into the worm's digestive system and internal organs. Use your forceps to spread the worm open and pin the sides of its body to your dissection pan or tray.
The inside of the worm should be exposed now. You may want to lightly sprinkle water over the worm to keep it from drying out while you study the inside of it. The interior part of the walls is called the septa. See if you can tell the difference. If possible, ask your teacher to point them out and help you see the different layers.
Now, the internal digestive organs should be exposed and available for study. Starting with the mount on the anterior end of the worm, locate the organs. The first organ you see is the pharynx. The worm's esophagus protrudes from the pharynx. About halfway down your incision are the crop and gizzard. Skip the other organs for now and find those two.
The crop is essentially a stomach. It stores food until the food is moved to the gizzard which grinds it up. The food leaves the gizzard and goes into the intestine, much like it does in humans, and travels to the anus. Along the way, the worm's intestines absorb nutrients from the food the gizzard crushed and ground up. Earthworms don't eat dirt. The consume organic materials found in the soil.
Make your way back up to the crop. If you look above the crop on the anterior side, you’ll find five pairs of aortic arches. This is the worm’s version of a heart. The hearts are located around the esophagus, and they connect to the dorsal blood vessel. That's the worm's version of an artery. Most earthworms can take direct damage to half their aortic arches and live.
Move your attention back to the pharynx at the anterior end of the worm. Locate the cerebral ganglia beneath the pharynx on the dorsal side. You may need to use your forceps to move some organs around to get a good look at it. The ventral nerve starts at the cerebral ganglia and runs the length of the worm. It may be hard to see if it is too small.
They are simple creatures speaking purely on their anatomy, but how their bodies and mating works are truly amazing. If you have time, go back over this tutorial again and study the worm longer. When you finish exploring, make sure you clean your workstation and dispose of your specimen correctly. Dispose of your lab gear according to the lab rules. Wash your hand thoroughly with soap and water.
Some Final Notes
Earthworms are vital to the health of our soil. The improve drainage, help stabilize the land, and add nutrients to the ground. Worms feed on organic materials they find in the dirt. Their bodies use the nutrients they need and deposit what's left back into the soil as waste. Fortunately for plants, that waste is usually nitrogen-rich along with other nutrients plants need to grow.
Their worm tunnels help loosen the soil which aids plants in root development. We could go on and on about the benefits of earthworms. If you follow our guide to dissecting earthworms and read our interesting facts along the way, we’re sure you’ll be able to dissect an earthworm specimen safely. You may even appreciate these simple creatures a little more when you are done.
The study of genetics is fascinating, and it’s more than just the study of “where we come from.” An AP Biology test may cover integral information like Mendel’s Dihybrid Cross Experiment or general but essential genetics terms like asexual reproduction.
These genetics practice problems can be added to any teacher-written study guide or a great resource for any student who wants to make sure they have all the information they need while studying for a genetics test.
Since genetics is such a broad subject, it can be difficult to decide which genetics practice problems to add to your guide. It’s best to add a little bit of everything to ensure a thorough understanding of how genetics works in regard to Biology.
While some of our genetics practice problems might not be useful or relevant as others, you may pick and choose these questions to help “fill” your study guide and boost your overall knowledge of the subject.
A Few Tips For Studying
When studying for your genetics test, you are likely to encounter many practice problems that you need to figure out and show your work, such as the phenotype ratio. Creating flashcards for genetic vocab is another great way to memorize those terms easier.
While everyone has a learning style that works best for them, choose a study tool that will not only help you memorize the material but will also help you to understand it. The memorization of material has little use if you don’t know what you’re memorizing.
Another great way to add more information to your study guide is to form a study group and put everyone in charge of coming up with a few questions. Not only will this help everyone in the group retain more information, but it can break up the monotony that sometimes results from studying.
If you’re an instructor and putting together a study guide for students, why not allow each student to come up with a question (that they can answer) and add it to the study guide? It allows them to do a little research and interact with their peers.
14 Vocab Terms To Add To Your Study Guide
Sometimes the easiest and best way to learn genetics is to start with the basic genetic terms, and you might want to consider adding these terms to your study guide (or make some flash cards as we already recommended). There may be many more you want to add to your study guide, but here’s a start:
Genotype:The genetic makeup of a living organism
Phenotype:An observable trait or physical appearance (i.e., eyes)
Allele:A form of a gene
Gene:The basic unit of DNA
Homozygous:Alleles that are identical
Heterozygous:When alleles are different
Dominant Trait:Always present in the phenotype when present in a genotype
Recessive Trait:Only present in the phenotype when no dominant traits are in genotype
Punnett Square: A chart which shows all possible genotypes of a living organism from reproducing (or crossing over)
Incomplete Dominance:When two homozygous phenotypes combine and result into a heterozygous phenotype
Codominance: Two dominant traits that have equal representation in the results
Autosomal:Any chromosome not on the sex cells
Karyotype:A picture of all the chromosomes in a cell and arranged into pairs
Epistasis:One gene locus alters the expression of the second locus. Ratios are different from what’s expected.
When one gene locus alters the expression of a second locus. Ratios are often altered from the expected. One treatment act as a recessive because it is "hidden" by the second trait.
What Do You Know About Mendel?
Since Gregor Mendel’s research plays such an integral role in the genetics we know today, it’s important to understand his work. Take a look at these questions (with the answers) to see how much you know about Mendel and his work in the field of genetics.
Mendel used purebred plants in his experiments. What are two possible genotypes of a purebred plant?
A purebred plant only produces the same type of offspring when self-fertilized. The plants must be homozygous for two genotypes to be possible. One example is purple flowers: WW and white flowers: ww.
In his pea plant experiments, Mendel examined many traits, which included the height of the plant and flower color. Which of the following answers best represents the plants of the P generation?
Homozygous purple, homozygous tall x heterozygous white, homozygous short
Heterozygous purple, homozygous tall x homozygous white, homozygous short
Homozygous purple, homozygous tall x homozygous white, homozygous short
Homozygous purple, homozygous tall x heterozygous purple, homozygous short
If you selected “C” for your answer, you’re right.
What did Mendel call the traits that were not expressed in the F1 generation?
Monohybrid cross includes a single parent and dihybrid has two parents
Monohybrid cross produces one offspring, and dihybrid cross produces two
A dihybrid cross involves heterozygous organisms for two characters, and monohybrid is only one
Monohybrid cross is performed for only one generation, and dihybrid cross is performed for two
Monohybrid results in 9:3:3:1 ratio and dihybrid cross is a 3:1 ratio
The correct answer is “C.”
When Mendel performed his famous genetic experiment between pea plants, the pea cross (the offspring of the F1 generation) always looked like one of the two parental varieties. Why?
One phenotype was dominant over the other
Each allele affected the phenotypic expression
Traits blended together during the process of fertilization
No genes interacted to produce the parental phenotype
Different genes interacted to produce the parental phenotype
If you chose answer “A,” you are correct.
Mendel had many findings when he conducted his experiments with the pea plants. What was his most ground-breaking and significant conclusion?
There substantial genetic variation in pea plants
Traits are inherited in “discrete units” rather than the result of “blending”
Recessive genes are more common than dominant ones
Genes are composed of DNA
Organisms that are homozygous for recessive traits have numerous disadvantages
The correct answer to this practice problem is “B.”
More Questions On Genetics
Now that you’ve tested your knowledge on Mendel let’s take a look at some other questions that might be good to add to a study guide when preparing for a genetics exam.
If an individual has a genotype AaBbCCDdEE, how many unique gametes can be produced through independent assortment?
If you’ve done your math right, the correct answer should be “B.”
Labradors are yellow, brown, or black. If a black female mates with a brown male, the results are as follows: all black puppies, half black to half brown puppies, or three-quarters black to one-quarter yellow puppies. The results of the colors of puppies indicate what?
Brown is dominant to black
Black is dominant to brown and yellow
Yellow is dominant to black
The correct answer is “E.”
Continuing with the same question about Labradors, how many genes must be responsible for these coat colors in the puppies?
The correct answer for this question is “B.”
One more question involving the Labs. One type cross of black and black the results were: 9/16 black, 4/16 yellow, 3/16 brown. The genotype aabb must result in the following?
A fatal result
If you chose “C,” you are correct.
If the inheritance of the first genetic trait is not dependent on the inheritance of the second trait, what is this in reference to?
Your answer should be The Law of Independent Assortment.
What are the genotype and phenotype ratios of the following cross: Dd x Dd?
The genotype should be 1DD: 1Dd : 1dd
The phenotype should be 3 dominant: 1 recessive
In petunias, heterozygotes for one of the genes have red flowers. Homozygotes have purple or white flowers. When petunia plants with purple flowers cross with one that has white flowers, what percentage of the offspring will have red flowers?
If you came up with 100% (E.) as your answer, you are correct.
If a woman has seven fingers on each hand and her husband and son have the normal amount of digits on their hands, what fraction of the couple’s other children would be expected to have extra digits? Treat additional digits as a dominant trait.
If your answer is 50%, you’re right.
Since genetics is such an in-depth study, we may not have covered all the topics that may be on your exam. Our practice problems, plus vocab words, should give you a good start and a great opportunity to practice what you already know about genetics.
As you start learning more about genetics in AP Biology, you will learn about dominance and how it refers to the relationship between two alleles, which are variations of a gene. When there’s a dominant relationship between alleles, one of the alleles will “mask” the other to help and influence a specific trait.
You can explore this further by taking a look at complete dominance, which is when the phenotype of the heterozygote is identical to the dominant homozygote. Remember, the phenotype is an observable characteristic such as the texture of hair on a human, the length of fur on an animal, or the color of petals on a flower.
As your instructor talks more about complete dominance and the role it plays in the genetics of all living organisms, they will also discuss incomplete dominance. While there are some similarities between incomplete dominance and codominance, it’s important to remember that they are completely different and both play an integral role in genetics.
In this article, we will give you an in-depth explanation of codominance, the difference between incomplete dominance and a codominant relationship, give you a few examples, and a practice problem to try out, so you have a better understanding of this unique relationship.
A Brief Look At Mendel’s Law of Dominance and a Few Important Terms To Remember
Whether you’re just starting to learn about genetics in your Biology course or you need a little refresher (or help) to understand some of the basic concepts surrounding a dominant relationship going over Mendel’s Law of Dominance can be helpful. We will also define some important genetic terms to help us explain codominance a little better.
Since codominant and incomplete dominant relationships are similar and often mistaken for one another, it’s best to spend a little time going over Mendel’s Law of Dominance first (as a starting point).
Even if you’re just starting out your study of genetics, you’ve probably heard a lot about Gregor Mendel. His research was groundbreaking and everything we know about genetics today started with him.
Mendel is known for many of his experiments and findings, but he’s best known for his three laws, which include the law of segregation, the law of independent assortment, and the law of dominance (which we will discuss very briefly).
In his law, Mendel found that the dominant trait is always present in the offspring. When someone inherits two different alleles from each of the parents and the phenotype of only one allele is observable (such as hair or eye color), the allele is dominant.
When one parent has two copies of an allele (let’s call it “D”), which makes it dominant, and the other parent has two copies of allele “d” (which is recessive), the offspring inherits a “Dd” genotype and the dominant phenotype.
As you can see, we’ve tossed in a lot of vocab terms for genetics that can be a little hard to remember. While you might know what most of them are, it’s important to have a clear understanding (since they play such an integral role in dominant relationships).
Here are a few terms to know:
Allele:A different form of a gene (the DNA for a trait), variant
Heterozygote:Someone that has two different forms of a specific gene, one from each parent
Homozygous:Someone that has two identical forms of a gene, “true breeding” characteristic
Phenotype:Noticeable characteristics of the genetic makeup (such as hair, eyes, skin color)
Genotype:The genetic makeup of an organism, like the traits.
Now that you have the general concept of what a dominant relationship is and how it works, let’s see the difference between a codominant and incomplete dominant relationship.
What’s The Difference Between Codominance and Incomplete Dominance?
Even though Mendel played an integral part in observing dominant relationships, codominant and incomplete dominant relationships are considered to be non-Mendelian inheritance patterns.
What Is Codominance?
In a codominant relationship, neither allele is recessive or masked by the other allele (which make the pair that code a characteristic). Blending plays a role in a codominant relationship, and both alleles are equally expressed, and their features are both present (and seen) in the phenotype.
In a way, you could think of codominance like “co-parenting,” where each parent plays an equal role. In a codominant relationship, both alleles are passed down from one generation to the next, rather than being bred out.
How Does Incomplete Dominance Differ?
We know what complete dominance is and incomplete (or partial) dominance may be a lot like it sounds. Incomplete dominance refers to when one allele for a certain trait is not entirely dominant over its counterpart (the other allele). The offspring end up with a combined phenotype.
The traits of each parent are neither dominant or recessive and a third phenotype results. The alleles don’t actually blend, but the traits appear to be mixed, so many people refer to the result of incomplete dominance as “blended.”
As you can see codominant and incomplete dominant relationships are very similar. While one has actual blending going on in the offspring, the other appears to be; you can see how some people might assume they are the same, right?
A simple way to explain the differences between the two is that in incomplete dominance, the traits of the offspring are unique and similar to the dominant traits (but still a trait of its own). Such as black feathers and white feathers produce silver feathered offspring.
A codominant relationship will produce offspring that has both traits visible. You can get a better idea of how this works in the examples below.
Examples Of Codominance
The easiest and best way to get a better understanding of a codominance is to take a look at real-life examples and here are a few:
Codominance In Flower Colors
If you know anything about incomplete dominance, you might be familiar with red and white flowers having offspring with pink flowers.
Let’s see how it differs in a codominant relationship. If two plants were crossed to produce a yellow and blue flower (and the alleles for petal color were dominant), the offspring would be yellow with blue spots or blue with yellow spots. Do you see how each allele plays a significant role in the color?
Codominance In Animals
There are many examples of incomplete dominance in animals. A spotted dog mates with a solid colored dog. The offspring would have some spots (kind of “in-between”) from both parents. The same idea goes for fur length and the color of feathers.
A popular example of a codominant occurrence is when a white homozygous horse mates with a homozygous red horse. The offspring ends up with a roan coat, which is a mixture of red and white hair (each strand of hair is either white or red). There are other animal examples, that are similar, that include cats, cattle, and dogs.
Codominance In Humans
When people think of incomplete dominance in humans, they often use wavy hair as an example, which is a result of a parent with straight hair and another with curly hair. Skin color, height, size of hands, and pitch of voice are all examples of incomplete dominance in humans.
So, what’s a good example of a codominant inheritance in humans? The most common example is in regards to the AB blood type. Human blood type follows the ABO system, which refers to the three different blood groups: A, B, and O.
The alleles encoding the A and B groups are dominant, and the O group is recessive. The results may be as follows:
AA (Blood Group A)
AB (Blood Group B)
AO (Blood Group A)
AB (Blood Group AB)
BB (Blood Group B)
BO (Blood Group B)
AO (Blood Group A)
BO (Blood Group B)
OO (Blood Group O)
In the AB blood type, for example, the “A” type blood cells have one kind of antigen, and the “B” type have another. While antigens typically alert the body of a “foreign” blood type attacking the immune system, people with AB blood have both antigens and their immune system cannot be attacked by either type; this is why AB blood is considered to be “universal.”
Ready To Test Your Knowledge?
Are you ready to see how much you know about codominant inheritance? Check out this practice problem and select the right answer.
Which of the following is NOT an example of a codominant relationship?
Offspring with AB blood type, whose parents have blood types A and B
A calf has red and white hairs, and one parent is white while the other is red
A child with brown eyes has a parent with blue eyes, and the other has brown eyes
A flower has red and white petals (it’s the offspring of red and white flowers)
If you chose “C,” you’re correct.
We’ve talked a lot about animals with roan coats. Here’s your question:
Is it possible for red offspring to be born to a white horse that mates with a roan horse?
If you said, “No,” then you’re getting a good understanding of codominant inheritance.
You may already know that in the study of genetics, dominance refers to the relationship between alleles, which are two forms of a gene. In a dominant relationship between alleles, one allele “masks” the other and influences a specific trait.
When the phenotype (the observable characteristic) of the heterozygote is identical to the dominant homozygote, the relationship is considered to be “complete dominance.” Since genetics is full of variations and changes, complete dominance isn’t always the outcome but rather incomplete dominance.
In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth explanation of incomplete dominance (also known as partial dominance), some examples, and a practice problem so that you can try out on your own, so you can gain a better understanding of this type of relationship.
A Quick Look At Important Terms
As you study genetics, you may find that it’s difficult to remember all the of the terms and what they mean. Before you can completely understand incomplete dominance, it’s a good idea to go over some basic genetic terminology.
Gene: The DNA for a trait
Allele: A different or variant form of a gene
Heterozygote: An individual with two different forms of a specific gene, one from each parent
Homozygote: An individual with two identical forms of a gene, results in true breeding for a characteristic
Phenotype: Observable characteristics of the genetic makeup
Genotype: The genetic makeup of an organism, such as traits
Now that we’ve reviewed a few of the genetic terms that you’re likely to see frequently when learning about partial dominance let’s move on to the concept of partial dominance.
Mendel’s Law of Dominance
Gregor Mendel is often referred to as the “Father of Genetics” because without his experiments, persistence, and years of research we probably wouldn’t have a good understanding about who we are or why we share traits with our ancestors. Mendel created three “laws” that he is known for: the law of dominance, the law of segregation, and the law of independent assortment.
To get a better understanding of partial dominance, we’ll take a closer look at Mendel’s “Law of Dominance.” In this “law” Mendel found (through his years of experiments) that the dominant trait is the trait whose appearance is always in the offspring. As we mentioned earlier, dominance is the relationship between the two alleles.
If someone inherits two different alleles from each of the parents and the phenotype (such as hair or eye color) of only one allele is noticeable in the offspring, then that allele is dominant.
If one parent has two copies of allele “A” (which would be dominant) and the other parent has two copies of allele “a” (which would be recessive), then the child will inherit an “Aa” genotype and still display the dominant phenotype.
Now that we have a full understanding of the dominance relationship between alleles, let’s see how the partial dominance differs.
Incomplete Dominance: What Is It?
We understand complete dominance, but you might still be wondering how partial dominance differs. Is it much like the name suggests? Partial dominance is when one allele for a specific trait is not entirely dominant over its counterpart (or the other allele). The result, which is seen in offspring, is a combined phenotype.
What does this mean? The traits of each parent are neither dominant or recessive. In a partial dominance relationship, between two alleles, a third phenotype is a result and is a combination of phenotypes of the two homozygotes; this is often referred to as an “intermediate form of inheritance.” The alleles do not blend, but partial dominance is often referred to as “blending” because traits are mixed and appear to be “blended.”
Examples of Incomplete Dominance
A better way to understand partial dominance is through examples and here are a few:
A common example of partial dominance that many instructors of Biology use in the genetics unit are a snapdragon flower. In this example, the Snapdragon is red or white.
If a red homozygous snapdragon is paired with a white snapdragon (which is also homozygous), the hybrid result would be a pink snapdragon. Here’s how it the partial dominance looks when broken down:
The genotypes are Red (RR) x White (rr) = Pink (Rr)
When the first offspring (F1) generation, which is all pink flowers, cross-pollinates, the resulting flowers in the F2 generation consist of all the phenotypes: ¼ Red (RR): ½ Pink (Rr): ¼ White (rr). The phenotypic ratio is 1:2:1.
If the F1 generation cross-pollinates with the “true breeding” red flowers (homozygotes), the F2 generation will result in red and pink flowers (half-red and half-pink); the phenotypic ratio is 1:1.
If the F1 generation cross-pollinates with “true breeding” white flowers, the F2 generation will result in white and pink flowers (half of each and a phenotypic ratio of 1:1).
In the case of partial dominance, the intermediate (or 3rd ) trait is the heterozygous genotype. The pink snapdragon flowers are heterozygous with an Rr genotype, and the red and white flowers are homozygous for flower color with genotypes RR and rr (or red and white).
While snapdragon flowers are a common example, you can find the same results with red and white tulips, roses, and carnations.
Incomplete Dominance in Animals
Just like plants and humans (which we’ll give an example of briefly), partial dominance can occur in animals; as it can occur in every living organism.
Let’s look at an example of rabbits. If a breed with long fur, like an Angora rabbit, mates with a breed with short fur, like a Rex rabbit, the offspring is likely to have fur that is in the middle; not too long or too short.
Andalusian chickens are also a popular example of partial dominance in animals due to their unique blue-ish feathers. The chickens don’t always have slate blue feathers, but it is often a result of a white rooster mating with a black hen. Since both parents have the inheritance of blue alleles (about 50%), the offspring is likely to have feathers with a splash of blue.
If you consider cats and dogs, there are usually some cats or dogs that have more markings than one of the same breed. When a heavily spotted or market dog or cat marks with a mate that has solid-colored fur (and no markings), the offspring is likely to have some markings but not the same as either parent.
Partial dominance can apply to the length of tails, the color of fur, and many other phenotypes in animals.
Incomplete Dominance in Humans
By now, you’re probably able to see a pattern in how partial dominance works in genetics. It’s a complex idea, but when you break it down it’s not as complex as some people make it, right?
Consider some ways that partial dominance may occur in humans. Like the fur length on an animal, the child of one parent with curly hair and the other with straight-hair is likely to have wavy hair. Both straight and curly hair is dominant, but neither one dominates the other.
Diseases like sickle cell disease or Tay-Sachs disease is another example of partial dominance in humans. Skin color, height, voice pitch, and even the size of one’s hands can all be attributed to partial dominance.
Think about your own features. Are you a carbon copy of one of your parents or do some of your features sit “in the middle” and are a result of partial dominance?
A Practice Problem For Incomplete Dominance
Whether you want to study up on partial dominance or just want to play around with some scenarios and see what you come up with, take a look at a few of these practice problems.
A cross between a bird with blue feathers and a bird with white feathers produces offspring with silver feathers. The color of the birds is determined by only two alleles.
What are the genotypes of the parent birds?
What is the genotype of the bird with silver feathers?
Can you figure out the phenotypic ratios of the offspring of two birds with silver feathers?
The answers are as follows. How did you do?
The answer for #1 is BB (homozygous blue) for the bird with blue feathers and WW (homozygous white) for the bird with white feathers.
The answer to #2 is one blue allele and one white allele. Since neither allele is dominating another, we get a “blend” which results in the bird with silver feathers.
To figure out #3, you need to fill out a Punnett Square. Silver x silver = BW x BW. Your results should be 25% of offspring are homozygous white (WW), 25% are homozygous blue (BB), and 50% are hybrid, which means they have silver feathers.
If you’re studying for a science test, one of the best ways to help remember the material is by setting to music! That’s right; cell raps can help you remember the names of the organelles located in each cell, as well as their functions.
We’ve rounded up our top seven picks for cell raps that we think you’re going to love.
Best Cell Rap for Sixth-Graders: Cells Cells by Crappy Teacher
5 out of 5 stars
As YouTuber CrappyTeacher (Emily Crapnell) explains in her cell rap video, she created this video to help her sixth-grade science students learn the different parts of a cell. At over 5.7 million views, it seems that this cell rap has caught on with more than just Crapnell’s students! We can’t blame people for watching it; it’s catching and makes science--dare we say it?--fun!
“Today’s the day,” the rap begins; “let’s talk about the building blocks of life--cells that make us.”
The cell rap chorus covers some of the most vital parts of cellular biology. It explains that cells are made of organelles, and mentions cytoplasm, the nucleus (“controllin’ everything”), the membrane, the vacuole (“we can float around for hours”), and chloroplasts by name.
The next chorus explains that there are two different types of cells--animal and plant cells, while the final three stanzas are devoted to explaining in more details with each part of the cell does. “The cell membrane is the border patrol,” raps CrappyTeacher, and then later, “The mitochondria’s something every cell needs, breaking down the food and releasin’ energy.”
Over second thousand people have taken the time to comment on this cell rap. Many mention how they heard it years ago and still remember it, speaking to the catchy lyrics and the arresting beat. While designed for sixth-graders, the content is sophisticated enough that even college students report finding it helpful!
We also feel like it’s one of the best mixes of catchy lyrics and useful information, managing to find a good balance between repetition and new information. Plus, it provides a great video with very helpful images which will further solidify the information in your mind. For these reasons, we’ve given it five stars!
Best Karaoke Option: The Cell Song by Glenn Wolkenfeld
5 out of 5 stars
The Cell Song, created and sung by Glenn Wolkenfeld, isn’t a cell rap--but it is a fantastic way to use the power of song to help commit the parts of a cell to memory! And with over two million views, we’re not the only people who think so.
The song is a folksy, bluesy tune where the singer asks what happens when he goes into a cell. “Who drives this bus,” sings Wolkenfeld, and then he “found myself talking to the boss, the nucleus.”
Wolkenfeld does two things in this song; he gets deeper into the molecular biology involved in the parts of a cell, and he offers a karaoke version.
Unlike some of the other cell raps available, The Cell Song explains that chromosomes stores genetic information, the ribosomes make proteins, and the lysosome use enzymes to dissolve, and centrioles organize chromosomes into spindles.
Wolkenfeld also uses The Cell Song to explain how rigid cell walls allow plants to grow extremely tall, and the purpose of green in the plant cell. “I went into a plant cell, ‘why’s it so green?’” sings the artist. “‘Cause I make food from sunlight,’” answers a green chloroplast.
The video is filled with helpful drawings and diagrams to further illustrate each concept. Wolkenfeld, as we mentioned already, also offers a karaoke version, which is the same version, but instead of Wolkenfeld singing, the lyrics are on the screen.
The Cell Song, like Cells Cells by CrappyTeacher, also gets five stars thanks to its ability to combine great video content with helpful, relevant information about cells.
You can find The Cell Song here, and the karaoke version here.
Best Song With Video: The Parts of a Cell Song by Jam Campus
5 out of 5 stars
The Parts of a Cell Song is a cell rap created by an organization called Jam Campus. It’s one of many Jam Campus creations; in fact, the YouTube channel creates educational videos on everything history to science to mathematics.
With over 54,000 views, The Parts of a Cell Song is catchy and well-loved. What we especially love, in addition to the self-made music, is the high quality illustrated video! Any time you can marry great visual images with catchy lyrics, you increase the likelihood of you remembering the information.
The Parts of a Cell Song gets right down to business, stating in its first line, “here’s what each cell contains, outer layer is the cell membrane.” The lyrics point out where cells get their energy (mitochondria), and what ribosomes do (help with protein synthesis).
We also appreciate this lyric, which helps to sum up the parts of a cell, something most cell raps don’t do:
Cell membrane, mitochondria, lysosomes and the ribosomes Cytoplasm, nucleus, E.R. and Golgi body, and the nucleolus
We especially appreciate how accurate the presented information is here (many cell raps mistakenly identify ribosomes as making proteins; however, they simply help in the assembly of polypeptides, chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein), which is a big part of why this song gets five out of five stars.
Best for Repetitive Learning: The Cell Rap with Mr. Simons’ Fifth Grade Class
4 out of 5 stars
Mr. Simons and his fifth grade have teamed up to create another great cell rap, available on YouTube. This cell rap has approximately 468,000 views, and we understand why--out of all the cell raps we’re sharing today, this one is probably the most likely to get stuck in your head!
Every song has to decide how to balance repetition with new information; as you’ll see later, some of the cell rap songs we’ve rounded up choose to focus on including as much data as possible. This rap, however, from Jake Simons, focuses on repetition.
In fact, we feel it focuses a little too much on repetition (we downgraded it to four stars), but it’s still a great rap that will help cement many of the things you’re learning about cell biology into your memory.
This five-minute rap features the cytoplasm, the nucleus, the membrane, the vacuoles, and the mitochondria of the cell. Here’s an example of a lyric:
“Just like us, the cell has energy. The mitochondria takes the food and puts it where it needs to be.”
Here’s another line from the cell rap, this one memorably explaining how the cell membrane works:
“There’s a thing called a membrane that holds it all in place so none of us will ever complain.”
Is this the cell rap to turn to if you need to memorize complicated material? Probably not; but it is a great option for younger students or people who need just the basic parts of a cell!
Best Use of Additional Resources: The Cell Song by Keith Smolinski
4 out of 5 stars
The Cell Song was written and recorded by Dr. Keith Smolinski as part of a doctoral study to research how music can help students learn complex science concepts. In addition to The Cell Song, which features the parts of a cell, there are another nine songs sold in an album called Biorhythms: The Music of Life Science.
Songs in Biorhythms cover everything from cellular division, to the digestive tract, to the ecosystem. The song we’re featuring, The Cell Song, isn’t a cell rap, but it is well-performed, catchy, and interesting to listen to!
While the accompanying video doesn’t include images (that’s why it only has four stars and not five), it does utilize the lyrics on screen. In just two minutes and nineteen seconds, Dr. Smolinski manages to cover everything from the nucleus to the cell membranes.
In The Cell Song, listeners learn that the nucleus contains the genetic code, the mitochondria are the power plants of the cell, and the vacuoles store food and water. We also learn that the ribosomes make proteins, the Golgi bodies pack and ship the proteins, and the endoplasmic reticulum carries them.
Plus, the song teaches that lysosomes are janitors, cytoplasm is gel-like, and cell membranes help regulate what comes in and out of the cell.
In the notes section of this video, Dr. Smolinski also explains that additional teacher’s resources are available on his website, including a Teacher’s Guide for The Cell Song. All of Dr. Smolinski’s resources are based on the National and State of Connecticut Science Standards, so you can be sure you’re getting accurate and helpful information.
Best Rap Alternative: Organelles Song by ParrMr
4 out of 5 stars
ParrMr, a YouTube creator, has garnered over one hundred thousand subscribers thanks to her (or his!) ability to put science lyrics to popular songs. If you cringe over cells raps or want music you’re already familiar with, you can find videos on everything from Pangaea to the atmosphere to the planets.
ParrMr’s songs are set to hits like Forget You by Cee Lo Green, Toothbrush by D’NCE, and Jealous by Nick Jonas. The one we’re featuring here, with four out of five stars, is Organelles Song, set to Counting Stars by OneRepublic.
The music is easy to remember if you’re already familiar with the song--our one complaint, however, is that the lyrics have very little repetition. This has the upside of packing a ton of information into the four-plus minute song, but if you’re trying to make sure the material sticks, this might be a downside.
“Look inside a cell,” sings ParrMr, who created this song for his or her sixth-grade students, “and you will see...organelles have jobs, yeah, organelles have...jobs.”
The next lines focus on how plant cell walls and cell membranes protect the line like a fence, letting the right things in and out. ParrMr covers vacuoles, lysosomes, the nucleus, chromatin, DNA, and ribosomes.
The final stanza explains proteins and their relationships to the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi bodies, and cytoplasm. Mitochondria and chloroplasts are also mentioned.
Organelles Song by ParrMr has racked up over 700,000 views, and for a good reason--we give this cells video four out of five stars!
Runner-up Rap Alternative: Cells Song by ParrMr
3 out of 5 stars
Another much-loved option (four hundred thousand views!) by ParrMr, also for a sixth-grade classroom, this is another song about cells set to hit music. This one, called Cells Song, is set to Sail by AWOLNATION.
In it, ParrMr sings about cell membranes, cytoplasm, organelles, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, ribosomes, and Golgi bodies.
“Cells cells cells cells cells,” he sings, before starting another chorus about vacuoles, the nucleus, and lysosomes.
Here is the final stanza:
Capturing Sun's energy Chloroplasts in plants and trees And cell walls giving box-like shape, rigid
If you’re a fan of pop or dance music or are simply looking for a non-rap alternative to cell raps, this is a great option. It’s short on useful information, but what is included is presented appealingly, and will be likely to stick!
Thanks to these seven awesome cell raps, we have a feeling you’re going to ace your next quiz or test. We’d say good luck, but we don’t think you’ll need it!
Biology is a massive subject, and if you’re trying to study for a test, remembering all those facts, strange Latin names, and confusing concepts can seem impossible. The smartest students, however, have found clever ways to increase the amount of information they remember. One of the best ways is using a biology poem to help remember the difficult material.
A bio poem is a mnemonic device or a simple poem that includes the facts, names, or concepts you’re trying to remember. The idea is that your brain retains the information better that way, and when it comes down to test day, you’ll be able to call forth the learned material by reciting the poem.
Below, we’ve listed seven bio poems that will help you perform better on your next exam. Plus, keep reading for the ultimate guide on remembering difficult things and studying for big exams.
How We Chose Our Ratings
You can see below that we’ve rated the poems we’ve included in this roundup; since we’ve scoured available bio poems, we’ve been able to bring you only the best and most helpful.
Top 7 Best Bio Poems
Best Classic Biology Poem: Dear King Philip
5 out of 5 stars
A mnemonic device is a great way to help our brains remember complicated groups of information--especially when the data has to go in a specific order. The Dear King Philip device has been used for generations to help students remember the order of taxa in biology.
The order is as follows: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.
Each of the mnemonic’s first words matches the words of the taxa, in order: Dear King Philip Came Over For Good Spaghetti.
It sounds ridiculous and hilarious, but that’s exactly why it works so well; because it involves our emotional response (laughter and hilarity), we’re more likely to remember it! Other variations include the following:
Dumb Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach
Do Kings Play Chess On Fine Green Silk?
Dakota Kills People Cause Other Friends Got Sad
The following two classic biology mnemonics don’t include the letter D, so if your biology professor doesn’t ask for you to remember Domain, these will work better for you:
Keep Pond Clean Or Fish Get Sick
Kids Pick Candy Over Fancy Green Salad
You can also make up your own.
With or without the Domain, a taxon is a group of organisms. Taxonomists use these groups to organize what we know about animals. African elephants, for example, form the genus Loxodonta. While scientists largely agree on where African elephants belong, they often disagree about other classifications, a fact that isn’t widely known!
Best Basic Bio Poem: MRS GREN
5 out of 5 stars
Mnemonics can help us remember extremely simple things (the difference between dessert and desert, for example, is the extra s, which gives you a clue about its meaning. Don’t you want to eat more dessert?) but they can also help you outline more complicated concepts.
Biology teaches us that seven processes define living things, and once again we turn to a mnemonic to help us remember that process: MRS GREN.
The letters stand for the following:
M → Movement
R → Respiration
S → Sensation
G → Growth
R → Reproduction
E → Excretion
N → Nutrition
Movement is a vital process for living things as it allows them to find or better position themselves to attract or produce food.
Respiration is the process through which living things convert energy from carbohydrates and fats. Most of the organisms we’re familiar with use oxygen to break down (this produces a by-product know as carbon dioxide), but some organisms utilize nitrates, iron, or other material to break the sugars down.
Sensitivity is connected to movement and, in fact, is what triggers movement for many organisms. An organism is a living organism if it can react to changes in its environment. A plant, for example, will move its leaves towards the sun or towards a grow light.
Just like sensitivity and movement are connected in this bio poem, so growth and respiration are connected. In fact, it is respiration that allows for growth!
The excess energy organisms create when they break down sugars during respiration can be used in the production of new cells--whether that’s a larger shell (as in the case of a snail) or a new leaf (as in the case of a plant). Special note: for growth to be considered, it must be irreversible.
Reproduction is the fifth of the living processes that define whether or not something is alive. It can range from the ultra-simple division of cells to the conception of new human life!
We’ve already referenced one by-product that occurs during normal function in a living cell--carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is excreted and is an example of the sixth living process: excretion. A living simple creates waste as it functions normally, and this waste must be excreted.
Nutrition is the taking in of food. That food can vary wildly and can be anything from water in the soil to other organisms. Regardless, nutrition is a vital part of the living process.
Best Bio Poem for Phases of Mitosis: I Passed My Anatomy Test
5 out of 5 stars
Another great bio poem that lends itself to helping us remembering the phases of mitosis is this one: I Passed My Anatomy Test. The letters (I, P, M, A, and T), stand for the following phases:
If your professor requires you to learn about cytokinesis, as well (this phase begins during anaphase or telophase), you can add the word “calmly” onto your bio poem so that it reads: I Passed My Anatomy Test Calmly.
Other possible devices for the phases of mitosis include the following:
I Propose Men Are Toads
Idiot, Pass Me Another Tequila
I Picked My Apples Today
Which device should you select? Choose the one that makes you laugh, smile, or that sticks in your head readily. The easier it is for you to remember, the better!
Best Bio Poem for Embryonic Development: Zikes!
5 out of 5 stars
There are four stages of embryonic development:
Zygote, in which the fertilized ovum (the united sperm and egg cells) begins to divide rapidly
Morula, which is comprised of 10-30 cells
Blastula, which gets its names from the Greek word for “sprout,” and in which the morula forms an inner cavity filled with fluid, forming a blastula
Gastrulation is the embryonic phase in which the blastula (single-layered) turns into the gastrula (three-layered)
Neurula, in which the nervous system becomes to develop
The first letters of each of these stages correspond to the following mnemonic: Zikes! Martin is a Big Giant Nerd! (Note that “is” and “a” aren’t counted!)
Best Bio Poem for Taxonomy of Humans: All Cool Men
5 out of 5 stars
A common question that likes to pop up on biology tests is about the taxonomy of humans, and these clever devices help us remember the right order.
First, here’s the taxonomy: Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, Primate, Hominidae, Homo sapien.
Now, here’s the mnemonic: All Cool Men Prefer Having Heavy Sideburns.
Best Bio Poem for Kingdoms of Life: Biology People
5 out of 5 stars
If you’re confident the kingdoms of life will show up on your biology exam soon, here’s a great bio poem to help you remember the five kingdoms: Biology People Find Plants Attractive.
It will help you remember these five kingdoms:
Best Bio Poem for Major Fungal Classes: Zombies
5 out of 5 stars
Another hilarious mnemonic device--Zombies Are Brown and Dirty--is one of several that can help you recall the major fungal classes!
The classes are:
In addition to Zombies Are Brown and Dirty, you can use:
Zap A Bear Dead
Zebras Are Big Dummies
All Zebras Dance Badly
Using Poetry to Help You Remember Things
Memory is a fascinating process and understanding how it works can help you better study for your next exam--with or without a bio poem!
The first step in remembering is called encoding. Encoding is the process through which something external--an interaction with another person, a biology concept, or the route to a new place, for example--is converted into a construct. A construct is stored inside the brain and if it’s laid down correctly, can be played later, like a movie.
Encoding a Memory
Encoding begins when we pay attention to something, and our interest in the subject matters hugely, as does emotion. This is why, for example, it’s so easy to remember the lyrics from a favorite song. Music can evoke emotion, and because we like the genre, we’re paying close attention.
However, you probably have trouble remembering the name on the nametag of the person who checked out your groceries this morning--because you weren’t very interested and because no emotions were called for.
This is why poetry is so helpful. By translating obtuse concepts into funny, interesting rhymes (even if you don’t think the rhyme is interesting; the new combination of words that rhyme is read as unusual and worth paying attention to by your brain) help you recall complex or boring material at a later time.
Two More Powerful Memory Devices
Using bio poems, however, isn’t the only way to remember complicated information. There is a whole host of available memory devices that can improve your ability to retain and recall reams of data. Here are just a few:
1. Method of Loci
“Loci” means “places” in Latin and the method of loci is often called the memory journey or the memory palace in today’s world. This memory device has been around since the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks (Cicero, for example, wrote about it in his De Oratore). It’s used today by champion memorizers and sometimes even shows up in pop culture (in the hit television show Sherlock, for example).
To use the method of loci, visualize the physical layout of a place that’s familiar to you--your bedroom, for example. Then, assign a concept or term to the different objects in your bedroom. Here is an example of how you might assign parts of a cell:
You can assign more than just the name to each place in your bedroom; you can also assign the function of each part of the cell.
This way, when you get to a test question that asks you to name the parts of a cell and their functions, you can mentally “walk” through your room, and each object in your room will help trigger your recall so you can answer the test question.
2. Chunking & Organizing
Chunking is a method of memory recall best explained by two popular examples: telephone numbers and social security numbers.
Telephone numbers have as many as eleven numbers, and social security numbers have nine; a string of eleven numbers or nine numbers would be difficult to memorize, but by organizing the strings into smaller chunks of numbers, they’re accessible to even small children!
This is a great device to use when you’re dealing with long strings of information because you’ll be able to focus on smaller groups instead of larger pieces of data, which have the added issue of being overwhelming!
Your Best Exam Yet
Thanks to the seven bio poems and two memory devices we shared above, you’re all set for your best exam yet. Good luck!
Biological magnification is a rising concern amongst researchers who examine the ways that chemicals and pollutants may have long-term effects on ecosystems. In this article, we’ll dive deep into what it is and the impacts it’s already had on our environment.
Biology researchers and students are likely familiar with the field of ecotoxicology, or the study of how chemicals and toxins affect ecosystems and their organisms. In this field, the term biological magnification is frequently used to describe the amplified concentrations of these substances as you move up through the food chain.
Also fittingly called bioamplification or biomagnification, this process explains why harmful substances like have metals, or chemicals found in fertilizers or pesticides, present in even the largest, carnivorous predators.
In this article, we will discuss the process of biomagnification and how it works. We will define the terminology, and then give real-life examples and case studies documenting how chemicals travel through soil, water, and smaller organisms to eventually make their way to the top of the food chain in large concentrations.
What is Biological Magnification?
Put simply; the term biological magnification is used to describe the process by which substances used in farming or produced in industrial waste make their way into and up the food chain.
We see increased levels of these toxins and chemicals accumulating through the trophic levels of the food chain thanks to this phenomena.
Pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy metals from industrial waste are some of the most common culprits who contribute to the problem.
Typically, the materials are carried through water sources like rivers, lakes, and streams as a result of surface runoff where they are then ingested by aquatic animals like frogs or fish. These small organisms are then preyed upon by predators higher up in the food chain, like birds, larger fish, or animals, which is how these same substances make their way into their body.
Many of these toxins and chemicals are fat soluble and get stored in their internal organs or fat tissue. This results in an accumulation of the substance over time and in greater concentrations the higher up the food chain you go. This phenomenon is called food chain energetics.
Although biomagnification doesn’t always have a direct effect on living organisms, long-term exposure to harmful chemicals may result in unpleasant and irreversible side effects that could threaten a species.
Biological Magnification vs. Bioaccumulation
It’s important to note that there is a significant difference between biomagnification and bioaccumulation. Although some may use the words interchangeably, they actually describe different scenarios in an organism.
Biological magnification specifically refers to increasing concentration of materials in each higher link in the food chain. However, bioaccumulation examines the increased presence of a particular substance inside a single organism.
While the two processes may be interconnected, for the purpose of this article it’s important to differentiate the terminology to understand the real-life examples and practice.
Examples of Biological Magnification
There are numerous, well-documented examples of biomagnification where researchers find high concentrations of chemicals in apex predators. Many of these studies also demonstrate the potential negative consequences of this build up over time. Here are a few examples.
During World War II troops faced a plethora of health issues, including outbreaks of malaria, body lice, typhus and bubonic plague spreading through mosquito bites at encampments throughout the world.
DDT is a pesticide that was developed to kill these biting bugs to help control the spread of these diseases, and following the war had agricultural applications. Farmers used the product on their crops to control pests, and it was both popular and widespread thanks to its low cost and easy application.
It was approved as being safe and effective by the EPA at the time because there did not appear to be any harmful side effects of ingesting the chemical in animals or humans. However, this did not take into account the possibility of biomagnification.
DDT doesn’t break down over short periods of time in the environment and is a substance that gets stored in the fatty tissues of animals who consume it. This became particularly problematic for bald eagles.
A predator near the top of the food chain, bald eagles were consuming large quantities of fish who had been affected by the chemical. Runoffs from farms hit the waterways, and DDT infiltrated aquatic plants and animal life, and the eagles ingested the chemical with each meal they ate.
Over time, the chemical disrupted their ability to lay eggs with strong shells, causing the bald eagle population to decrease to the point of near extinction. In 1940, Congress stepped in to pass an act to protect the species, but DDT wasn’t banned until 1972.
It wasn’t just species of eagles affected. Other predator birds like brown pelicans and peregrine falcons saw the same side effects. The thinning off the eggshells made incubation and hatching near impossible and also threatened these bird populations.
Fish and Pregnancy
Another notable example of biomagnification is in predator fish. Species like Shark, Swordfish, Orange Roughy, Tuna, King Mackerel, or Tilefish contain proportionally larger levels of toxic mercury than smaller fish and shellfish.
In fact, the levels are so high that the FDA advises that pregnant women avoid consuming these species for fear of exposing developing fetuses to levels that may cause nerve damage.
How does this toxicity occur? Mercury is introduced into the ecosystem in one of two ways. As a naturally occurring element, it can leach from rocks and volcanoes into our water supply over time, but those natural changes are not likely to significantly impact the environment.
However, when you take the natural occurrences and combine them with human contributions through coal-burning power plants which impact the air, rain, soil, and water around these facilities, the mercury levels rise drastically.
As we now know, once an element enters the water supply, it’s inevitable that it gets ingested by aquatic life at every level of the food chain. When plankton and small crustaceans that make up the majority of the diet of the larger, predatory fish have moderate levels, then the species who eat them will have a compounded effect.
For example, according to the FDA, the average amount of mercury found in a serving of scallops is 0.003 parts per million. Lobsters, one of the main predators of the scallop have a concentration of 0.107 parts per million.
Monkfish love dining on lobster, and have an average of 0.161 parts per million of mercury in their system, and shark and swordfish at 0.979 and 0.995 parts per million respectively regularly dine on monkfish.
In this example, it’s easy to see how quickly the effects compound and how concentrated they become with only four steps up the food chain ladder.
What Causes Biological Magnification?
Although biomagnification is a natural phenomenon that happens in all organisms, the instances where it is worrisome are largely due to anthropogenic factors. Materials that humans introduce into the environment can cause unexpected and hazardous side effects and typically fall into one of the following subcategories.
We live in an age where the word organic is closely correlated with natural and healthy, but too much of anything could be bad. Organic elements like phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon are necessary for survival, but if they appear in excessive quantities in ecosystems, they may cause eutrophication.
Eutrophication is a phenomenon when an organism that thrives in these conditions, like algae, for example, experience exponential growth and suddenly have an overwhelming population. This can then disrupt the ecosystem and kill off other organisms because there aren’t enough resources, like oxygen, to go around.
Waste produced from manufacturing plants, factories, and other industrial enterprises can release waste and toxins into the air and water that contribute to the problem.
Agricultural and Industrial
Chemicals introduced into the environment from inorganic pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers and herbicides that mix with our natural water sources due to runoff when it rains release toxic elements as well.
Not only does plastic physically impact our environment, often ending up in our oceans and disrupting marine ecosystems, but it can also leach toxic chemicals into water too.
For example, Bisphenol A, or BPA, has made headlines recently as a substance that can produce a range of health conditions in humans that is used in making plastic water bottles. It is one of the leading chemical pollutants in the environment.
As we discussed in our earlier case study, heavy metals that enter our water sources can wreak havoc on the ecosystem. Mining activities are sometimes at fault for releasing deposits that can pollute aquatic plants and contaminate water sources with elements like zinc or cobalt.
Potential Negative Effects of Biological Magnification
DDT and mercury aren’t the only hazardous substances that have the potential to biomagnify. Substances like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) that can impair reproductive systems, heavy metals, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons which are a known carcinogenic, cyanide, and selenium have been extensively studied and proven to have similar outcomes.
There are dozens of potential adverse effects to our environment, including but not limited to:
Reproductive implications for marine and other animal life
Killing coral reef ecosystems
Disrupting the natural food chain as species die off
There is also a significant risk of health impacts on humans who consume many of the organisms affected by this process. They include an increased risk of the following:
Bioamplification isn’t a new phenomenon, but the humans have introduced pollutants to the environment that makes it a threat to the ecosystem and our food sources. Understanding how and why it occurs is the first step to combating the problem and preventing the destruction over time.
Conversations and advocacy for sustainability need to continue to ensure the long-term health of our environment.