In biology, homeostasis can describe an individual organism's internal regulation as well as the regulation of an entire population of organisms. This presentation focuses on the individual.
If an individual organism is unable to maintain homeostasis (i.e., regulate its body temperature, pH, water balance, ion balance, etc.), it will suffer dire consequences. And how do organisms maintain homeostasis?
Some organisms, called regulators, are able to buffer the impact of external changes and thus, maintain the internal environment by using various behavioral and physiological mechanisms. Other organisms, called conformers, live in very stable environments and have not evolved such maintenance mechanisms. Since their environments are very stable, the "cost" of such mechanisms outweighs the benefits gained from them. These organisms' internal environment can change with the external environment because in these cases the external environment changes very little. A microorganism living in extremely salty conditions is a "conformer." Humans, on the other hand, are "regulators."
- Langley, L. L. (Ed.). (1973). Homeostasis: Origins of the Concept. Langley, National Library of Medicine. Stroudsburg, PA:Dowden Hutchinson, and Ross Inc.
- Sherwood, L. (1997). Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems (3rd ed.). West Publishing Co.
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