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UPSC Biology Miscellaneous Miscellaneous: Biology

Miscellaneous: Biology

Category : UPSC

Miscellaneous: Biology

 

1.           The Root

 

  • If we pull out any weed we will see that all of them have roots, stems and leaves. They may be bearing flowers and fruits. The underground part of the flowering plant is the root system while the portion above the ground forms the shoot system.
  • In majority of the dicotyledonous plants, the direct elongation of the radicle leads to the formation of primary root which grows inside the soil. It bears lateral roots of several orders that are referred to as secondary, tertiary, etc. roots. The primary roots and its branches constitute the tap root system, as seen in the mustard plant.
  • In monocotyledonous plants, the primary root is short lived and is replaced by a large number of roots. These roots originate from the base of the stem and constitute the fibrous root system, as seen in the wheat plant.
  • In some plants, like grass, Monstera and the banyan tree, roots arise from parts of the plant other than the radicle and are called adventitious roots.
  • The main functions of the root system are absorption of water and minerals from the soil, providing a proper anchorage to the plant parts, storing reserve food material and synthesis of plant growth regulators.
  • From this region some of the epidermal cells form very fine and delicate, thread-like structures called root hairs. These root hairs absorb water and minerals from the soil.
  • Roots in some plants change their shape and structure and become modified to perform functions other than absorption and conduction of water and minerals. They are modified for support, storage of food and respiration. Tap roots of carrot, turnip and adventitious roots of sweet potato, get swollen and store food.
  • Hanging structures that support a banyan tree, these are called prop roots.
  • Similarly, the stems of maize and sugarcane have supporting roots coming out of the lower nodes of the stem. These are called stilt roots.
  • In some plants such as Rhizophora growing in swampy areas, many roots come out of the ground and grow vertically upwards. Such roots, called pneumatophores, help to get oxygen for respiration.

 

2.           The Stem

 

  • The stem is the ascending part of the axis bearing branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. It develops from the plumule of the embryo of a germinating seed.
  • The main function of the stem is spreading out branches bearing leaves, flowers and fruits. It conducts water, minerals and photosynthates. Some stems perform the function of storage of food, support, protection and of vegetative propagation.
  • Underground stems of potato, ginger, turmeric, zaminkand, Colocasia are modified to store food in them.
  • Stem tendrils which develop from axillary buds, are slender and spirally coiled and help plants to climb such as in gourds (cucumber, pumpkins, watermelon) and grapevines. Axillary buds of stems may also get modified into woody, straight and pointed thorns. Thorns are found in many plants such as Citrus, Bougainvillea. They protect plants from browsing animals.
  • Some plants of arid regions modify their stems into flattened (Opuntia), or fleshy cylindrical (Euphorbia) structures. They contain chlorophyll and carry out photosynthesis. Underground stems of some plants such as grass and strawberry, etc., spread to new niches and when older parts die new plants are formed.

 

3.           The Leaf and Flower

 

  • Leaves are often modified to perform functions other than photosynthesis. They are converted into tendrils for climbing as in peas or into spines for defence as in cacti. The fleshy leaves of onion and garlic store food. In some plants such as Australian acacia, the leaves are small and short-lived. The petioles in these plants expand, become green and synthesise food. Leaves of certain insectivorous plants such as pitcher plant, venus-fly trap are also modified leaves.
  • The flower is the reproductive unit in the angiosperms. It is meant for sexual reproduction. A typical flower has different kinds of whorls arranged successively on the swollen end of the stalk or pedicel, called thalamus or receptacle.
  • Calyx and corolla are accessory organs, while androecium and gynoecium are reproductive organs.
  • When a flower has both androecium and gynoecium, it is bisexual. A flower having either only stamens or only carpels is unisexual.
  • The calyx is the outermost whorl of the flower and the members are called sepals. Generally, sepals are green, leaf like and protect the flower in the bud stage.
  • Corolla is composed of petals. Petals are usually brightly coloured to attract insects for pollination.
  • Androecium is composed of stamens. Each stamen which represents the male reproductive organ consists of a stalk or a filament and an anther,
  • Gynoecium is the female reproductive part of the flower and is made up of one or more carpels. A carpel consists of three parts namely stigma, style and ovary.
  • The fruit is a characteristic feature of the flowering plants. It is a mature or ripened ovary, developed after fertilisation. If a fruit is formed without fertilisation of the ovary, it is called a parthenocarpic fruit.
  • In mango and coconut, the fruit is known as a drupe.
  • The cells of the permanent tissues do not generally divide further. Permanent tissues having all cells similar in structure and function are called simple tissues. Permanent tissues having many different types of cells are called complex tissues.
  • The parenchyma performs various functions like photosynthesis, storage, secretion.

 

4.           Strategies for Enhancement in Food Production

 

  • It is estimated that more then 70 per cent of the world livestock population is in India and China. However, it is surprising to note that the contribution to the world farm produce is only 25 per cent, i.e., the productivity per unit is very low. Hence, in addition to conventional practices of animal breeding and care, newer technologies also have to be applied to achieve improvement in quality and productivity.
  • During the period 1960 to 2000, wheat production increased from 11 million tonnes to 75 million tonnes while rice production went up from 35 million tonnes to 89.5 million tonnes.
  • This was due to the development of semi-dwarf varieties of wheat and rice. Nobel laureate Norman E. Borlaug, at International Centre for Wheat and Maize Improvement in Mexico, developed semi-dwarf wheat. In 1963, several varieties such as Sonalika and Kalyan Sona, which were high yielding and disease resistant, were introduced all over the wheat-growing belt of India.
  • Semi-dwarf rice varieties were derived from IR-8, (developed at International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines) and Taichung Native-1 (from Taiwan). The derivatives were introduced in 1966. Later better-yielding semidwarf varieties Jaya and Ratna were developed in India.
  • Sacchamm barberi was originally grown in north India, but had poor sugar content and yield. Tropical canes grown in south India Sacchamm of ficinarum had thicker stems and higher sugar content but did not grow7 well in north India.
  • These two species were successfully crossed to get sugar cane varieties combining the desirable qualities of high yield, thick stems, high sugar and ability to grow in the sugar cane areas of north India.
  • Some of the diseases caused by fungi are rusts, e.g., brown rust of wheat, red rot of sugarcane and late blight of potato; by bacteria - black rot of crucifers; and by viruses - tobacco mosaic, turnip mosaic, etc.

 

5.           The Cell

 

  • Rudolf Virchow (1855) first explained that cells divided and new cells are formed from pre-existing cells (Omnis cellula-e cellula).
  • Inside each cell is a dense membrane bound structure called nucleus. This nucleus contains the chromosomes which in turn contain the genetic material, DNA. Cells that have membrane bound nuclei are called eukaryotic whereas cells that lack a membrane bound nucleus are prokaryotic.
  • In both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, a semi-fluid matrix called cytoplasm occupies the volume of the cell. The cytoplasm is the main arena of cellular activities in both the plant and animal cells. Various chemical reactions occur in it to keep the cell in the 'living state'.
  • Besides the nucleus, the eukaryotic cells have other membrane bound distinct structures called organelles like the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the golgi complex, lysosomes, mitochondria, microbodies and vacuoles.
  • The prokaryotic cells lack such membrane bound organelles.
  • Ribosomes are non-membrane bound organelles found in all cells - both eukaryotic as well as prokaryotic. Within the cell, ribosomes are found not only in the cytoplasm but also within the two organelles - chloroplasts (in plants) and mitochondria and on rough ER (Endoplasmic Reticulum).
  • Cells differ greatly in size, shape and activities.
  • Nerve cells are some of the longest cells.
  • The prokaryotic cells are represented by bacteria, blue-green algae, mycoplasma and PPLO (Pleuro Pneumonia Like Organisms). They are generally smaller and multiply more rapidly than the eukaryotic cells. They may vary greatly in shape and size.
  • The organisation of the prokaryotic cell is fundamentally similar even though prokaryotes exhibit a wide variety of shapes and functions. All prokaryotes have a cell wall surrounding the cell membrane except in mycoplasma. The fluid matrix filling the cell is the cytoplasm. There is no well-defined nucleus. The genetic material is basically naked, not enveloped by a nuclear membrane.
  • In Eucaryotic the cell membrane is composed of lipids.
  • The cell membranes also possess protein and carbohydrate. The ratio of protein and lipid varies considerably in different cell types. In human beings, the membrane of the erythrocyte has approximately 52 per cent protein and 40 per cent lipids.
  • A non-living rigid structure called the cell wall forms an outer covering for the plasma membrane of fungi and plants. Cell wall not only gives shape to the cell and protects the cell from mechanical damage and infection, it also helps in cell-to-cell interaction and provides barrier to undesirable macromolecules.
  • Algae have cell wall, made of cellulose, galactans, mannans and minerals like calcium carbonate, while in other plants it consists of cellulose, hemicellulose, pectins and proteins.
  • Ribosomes are the granular structures first observed under the electron microscope as dense particles by George Palade (1953). They are composed of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and proteins and are not surrounded by any membrane.
  • The eukaryotic ribosomes are 80S while the prokaryotic ribosomes are 70S.
  • An elaborate network of filamentous proteinaceous structures present in the cytoplasm is collectively referred to as the cytoskeleton. The cytoskeleton in a cell are involved in many functions such as mechanical support, motility, maintenance of the shape of the cell.

 

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