Principles of cell biology

Chapter 1 Principles of cell biology


Anatomy and physiology are scientific terms used to describe the study of the structure of the body (anatomy) and how the body actually ‘works’ (physiology). In this section, we will study the anatomy and physiology of the dog and cat. In Section 2, the anatomy and physiology of some of the most commonly kept exotic species and of the horse are covered. We start by looking at the basic unit of the body – the cell – and then work our way through the tissues, organs and systems until the picture is complete.

Animal classification

When studying any aspect of biology it is important to have a basic understanding of the classification system used to group animals. How the species that one may meet in a veterinary practice fit into this classification system should also be understood. Classification is the way in which we ‘sort’ species into orderly groups, depending on how closely they are related in terms of their evolution, structure and behaviour. The science of classification is known as taxonomy.

If organisms have certain basic features in common they are grouped together into a kingdom. For example, if an organism is composed of more than one cell, i.e. it is multicellular, and obtains its food by ingestion, it is placed in the animal kingdom. Other kingdoms include plants and fungi. The animal kingdom is then further subdivided, based upon similarities of organisms, into a hierarchical system (Table 1.1). This narrows the classification down until we eventually reach a particular genus and species. Most living organisms are identified by a genus and species – a method known as the binomial system and invented by the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus.

Table 1.1 Classification of the domestic dog and cat

Taxonomic group Dog Cat
Kingdom Animal Animal
Phylum Chordata (Vertebrate) Chordata (Vertebrate)
Class Mammalia (Mammal) Mammalia (Mammal)
Order Carnivora Carnivora
Family Canidae Felidae
Genus Canis Felis
Species familiaris catus
Common name Domestic dog Domestic cat

All the species within the animal kingdom are divided into those with backbones – the vertebrates – and those that do not have backbones – the invertebrates, e.g. insects, worms, etc. The vertebrates are divided into eight classes. The classes that are of the most veterinary importance are:

These classes are then further divided into orders, and so on, until a species is identified, as in Table 1.1.

Most of this section of the book concerns the mammals, because the majority of animals seen in veterinary practice will be from this class. The distinctive features of mammals are the production of milk by the mammary glands and the possession of hair as a body covering. Examples of mammalian orders include:

Generally speaking, all mammals have a similar basic structural plan in terms of anatomy and physiology, but each species has been modified to suit its specific lifestyle. In other words, mammals have become specialised for activities such as running, digging, gnawing, jumping and eating specific foods.

Anatomical definitions

When studying anatomy and physiology it is important to understand the terms that are used to describe where structures lie in relation to one another. These are illustrated in Figure 1.1 and named as follows:

The basic plan of the body

The body is made up of a number of systems and each of them has a specific job, enabling the body to function effectively. These systems can be placed in one of three groups depending on their function:

The mammalian cell

Cells are the minute units of a tissue that can only be seen under a microscope. Cells can be considered to be the basic structural and functional unit of an organism. In fact they are like ‘little bodies’ themselves because they carry out a number of basic functions such as taking in nutrients and excreting waste, respiring or ‘breathing’, and reproducing. These and other functions are carried out by various structures that make up the cell – mainly by the organelles, or ‘little organs’, that float within the cytoplasm of the cell.

Cell structure and function

The components of a cell are shown in Figures 1.2 and 1.3 and are as follows:

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Jul 18, 2016 | Posted by in PHARMACOLOGY, TOXICOLOGY & THERAPEUTICS | Comments Off on Principles of cell biology

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