Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Water transportation and Storage; The Horny Devil Lizard, Cactus, Celery, and Indoor Plumbing.


The Horny Devil Lizard's horns and warty bits serve two key features, the first is to make it look and feel very painful to eat. The second and more interesting in my opinion is to create numerous small groves and channels between the scales and spikes. These channels as used to transport water, via capillary action, from any part of the lizards body to the corner of it's mouth for consumption and hydration.  Also it can shoot blood from it's eyes to deter predators further. 

Capillary Action is the of liquid to flow through narrow spaces without the assistance, and in most cases, in opposition to exterior forces such as gravity. It occurs because of intermolecular forces between the liquid and solid surface it is traveling though.

Plants have mastered to use of capillary action to transport water and nutrients throughout their structure. Celery is an excellent example of this since the veins that carry the water from the base of the stalk to the plants are so large. To see capillary action, in action, simply place a piece of celery into a container with colored water. After a short time you will have a piece of celery that looks very similar to this: 

So yes I've mention the transportation of water, but what about storage? Well the one species on earth that have mastered this are the numerous and widely varied family of Cactaceae, cactus. Cactus have evolved their shape and structure in so many ways to best absorb and retain water. Water may form up to 90% of the total mass of a cactus. Stem shapes vary considerably among cacti. The cylindrical shape of columnar cacti and the spherical shape of globular cacti produce a low surface area-to-volume ratio, reducing water loss, as well as minimizing the heating effects of sunlight. Ribbed or fluted stems of many cacti allow it shrink during periods of drought and then swell as it fills with water during rain. A fully grown saguaro cactus is able to absorb as much as 200 gallons of water during a heavy period of rain. Cactus have even gone so far as to cover themselves in a waxy outer layer, known as the cuticle, which further reduces water loss.


So how have humans used what nature has to teach us in our own homes? Well we developed modern indoor plumbing. The word plumbing comes for the Latin word for lead, "plumbum" because back during the height of the Roman empire, the first examples of indoor plumbing can be seen, simple gravity feed lead pipes would carry water from the Aqueducts to the public baths in Bath England. What can be seen today in home all over the world are systems that resemble a circulatory system more than the capillary action of plants. A central pump and heating system pushes water to all the outlying facets and toilets in the home.


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