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Animal Systems

Integumentary System - Skin Is In!

Integumentary? That's a big word to describe something as simple as your skin. First, the skin is not all that simple. Second, integumentary systems take a wide variety of forms in animals across the world. Just think about the differences in the skin of a fish, a frog, a lizard, a bird, and a mammal. Scales, slime, feathers, and hair are all parts of the integumentary systems for animals. Your parts include the basic types of skin, hair, fingernails, oil, and sweat glands. They are found in integument layers called the epidermis (top), dermis, and subcutaneous (bottom).

What Does This System Do?

The integumentary system is all about protection. The system protects your body from disease by providing a barrier to viruses and bacteria. The system protects your body from physical damage by offering a thick barrier that both contains your internal organs and stops large objects, like a rock from entering your body.

The system also protects your body from dehydration, overheating, or freezing. The layer of skin can sweat and help your body cool or surround a layer of fat that keeps warmer temperatures inside. Did you know your skin makes up over fifteen percent of your body weight and is the largest organ in your body? Yes, your skin is considered an organ.

Interacting with Other Systems

How does the integumentary system work with other systems? We already spoke about your skin as one of the first defense mechanisms in your immune system. Your skin has tiny glands that secrete sweat and oil. Those glands are termed exocrine glands and are not like the glands of your endocrine system. While it may feel a bit slimy, those fluids decrease the pH on the surface of your skin and kill microorganisms. There are even enzymes in your sweat that can digest bacteria.

The integumentary system also works closely with the circulatory system and the surface capillaries through your body. Capillaries near the surface of the skin open when your body needs to cool off and close when you need to conserve heat. We can't leave out the important sense of touch. Your nervous system depends on neurons embedded in your skin to sense the outside world.

Problems with the Skin

Can things go wrong with the system? Sure. There can be genetic diseases that result in super-thick skin. There is a disease called psoriasis where the cells of the epidermis are created at a speedier rate. The result is thick and callously skin on elbows and knees. Medicines can help relieve the condition.

In recent years, skin cancer has become a greater problem for people. It's not that we are more vulnerable to cancer; people just seem to be spending more time in the sun without protection. You should always use sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses when you are outside. That sunscreen and protection decreases the effect of ultraviolet radiation on the cells of your dermis and subcutaneous cells. The ultraviolet radiation is the cause of many different types of skin cancer.

Next Page on Animal Systems
- Overview
- Regulation
- Skeletal
- Muscular
- Circulatory
- Respiratory
- Digestive
- Excretory
- Nervous
- Endocrine
> Integumentary
- Immune
- Lymphatic


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Useful Reference Materials
Encyclopædia Britannica:
Books on
- Modern Biology (Rinehart and Holt)
- Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections (Reese, Taylor, Simon, and Dickey)
- Prentice Hall: Biology (Miller and Levine)
- Principles of Human Physiology (Silverthorn)
- Principles of Human Physiology (Stanfield)

- Chem4Kids: Metabolism
- Chem4Kids: Enzymes
- Geography4Kids: Populations
- Geography4Kids: Carbon Cycle
- Geography4Kids: Oxygen Cycle
- Geography4Kids: Nitrogen Cycle

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