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Relationship function: what is it, phases and examples

If we talk about the relationship function, we are talking about one of the three basic functions of living beings and, therefore, it is present in animals and plants, also occurring at the cellular level. There are three phases that intervene in the relationship function whose order is: first, the stimulus phase that provides information about the changes that are taking place in the external or internal environment of organisms, the second is the phase of analysis of the information to finally issue a response.

If you want to know how living beings perform the relationship function, as well as their phases, what elements and systems intervene and also some curious examples of the relationship function present in plants and animals, continue reading this AgroCorrn article about what is the relationship function, its phases and examples

What is the relationship function

The relationship function is one of the vital functions and, thanks to it, living beings have the ability to obtain information from the environment and to react to changes that occur in it or also, internally in the organisms themselves. In the following sections we will know what systems are involved in order for this vital function to occur for plants and animals.

We recommend you read this other article on the vital functions of living beings to learn more about this topic and connect the relationship function with the others. We also advise you to read the posts of each of the other vital functions separately: Relationship function: what is it, phases and examples and Reproduction function: what it is and why it is important .

Phases of the relationship function

The phases of the relationship function are: the stimulus or information obtaining phase, the information processing phase and, finally, the response phase. For these phases to occur, we have to know what elements are involved in the relationship function, and they are the following:

  • Stimulus phase: they are perceived by living beings through receptors and it is the information in physical, chemical or biotic form that living beings can perceive from the external or internal environment.
  • Stimulus processing phase: the second phase is responsible for analyzing the information received and, depending on whether it is cells, animals or plants, the systems involved are different.
  • Response phase: once the analysis has taken place, the response is emitted by the effector organs, and these can be mobile (if they cause the movement of the organism) or static or secretory (if they produce the release of substances).

Cell relationship function

The cell is capable of taking information from the environment and unleashing a cascade of processes thanks to which a cellular response is emitted . The types of stimuli that a cell is capable of perceiving are very varied: light, thermal, mechanical, chemical, magnetic, gravitational, electrical … and depending on the origin of the stimulus, the processing will be more or less complex.

On the other hand, there are also many ways in which the cell can emit responses and it does so through: secretion of substances, activation or deactivation of metabolism and cell division, formation of protective walls (encyst) or emission of light ( bioluminescence ) among others.

As we already know, there are unicellular organisms and these also have the ability to interact with each other, capturing signals from other unicellular organisms. Therefore, when this happens we speak of cellular communication and it is quite important in organisms such as bacteria that are grouped in colonies. On the other hand, in multicellular organisms , cellular communication is fundamental and is generally carried out chemically, transmitting signals through all the cells of the body to emit a complex response for the benefit of the organism in question.

We encourage you to learn more about unicellular and multicellular organisms: examples and differences by reading this other post.

Relationship function in plants

In effect, plants also interact and undergo changes caused by stimuli. This occurs because they are equipped with cells responsible for capturing internal and external stimuli and emitting the corresponding response. The response of plants to environmental stimuli can be carried out through growth or orientation movements, and these reactions are known by the name of tropisms. In turn, these tropisms may have a different nature, since they may be due to light stimuli (phototropisms), when organisms are oriented or grow towards or against light, geotropisms, which occur when the stem or stem is caused by gravity. Root grows for or against it, hydrotropisms, produced by the presence of water, chemotropism, when the plant reacts to chemical substances, growing in favor if these are beneficial or against if they are harmful, and, finally, thigmotropisms, when some vegetables grow around solid bodies when they come into contact with them (for example, what happens in vines). You can learn more about What is tropism, its types and examples with this other post.

On the other hand, there are other types of reactions of plants called nastias , produced in response also to external factors and are characterized by being rapid responses. These responses may also be due to light stimuli (photonastias), where organisms rotate or open flowers in response to light, thigmonastias, which occur when, for example, the plant reacts to contact with an insect by trapping it, as occurs in carnivorous plants. , or nictinastias, when vegetables change the position of the leaves depending on whether it is day or night.

Relationship function in animals

In animals, the relationship function involves the nervous system, which is the perceiver of stimuli and is responsible for the emission of responses. The sensory receptors are responsible for receiving this information from the external environment provided by the stimuli. There are different types of sensory receptorssince they can be, depending on their location, external receivers, if they capture information from the external environment, or internal receivers if they do so from the internal environment. In addition, depending on the nature of the stimulus to be perceived, these sensory receptors can be: photoreceptors, if they capture stimuli of a luminous type (either visible or ultraviolet light as in the case of insects), chemoreceptors, whose stimuli are chemical substances (for example smells or tastes), mechanoreceptors, if the stimuli are mechanical (such as touch, pain, gravity …), thermoreceptors, stimulated by cold or heat or, finally, electroreceptors, which detect electrical energy.

Depending on whether the animals are invertebrates or vertebrates, sensory receptors can be located in isolated cells or highly developed organs on the surface of the animal’s body, as is the case with the former, or they can be concentrated in the sense organs, as in the case of vertebrates.

After receiving the stimuli by these structures, it is important to know which systems are involved in the relationship function of the animals. They process information and integrate it thanks to a complex coordination system that involves the nervous system , which transmits information through nerve impulses throughout the body, and the endocrine system , which manufactures chemical molecules that also travel through the body. to the effector organs. The effector organs are the ones that, finally, will execute the responses elaborated by the previous ones, being fast responses those emitted by the nervous system and slow and lasting those that involve the endocrine system. These responses are of great importance in processes such asnutrition , locomotion, growth, reproduction, socialization and many other complex functions.

Examples of the relationship function in living things

There are multiple examples of how the relationship function is carried out in animals and plants , so, in this section, we will talk about two special cases where animals and plants integrate the relationship function in their vital functions, specifically for their food.

Example of the relationship function in animals

The first is the case of bats that use echolocation , a system of perception of the environment through the echo of sound waves that bounce off objects and return information about the distance and size of said objects. It is common in nocturnal animals such as bats, but it is also present in many species with other types of habits, for example, whales or dolphins. In the case of bats, what happens is that they contract the muscles of the larynx to emit sounds that are imperceptible to the human ear and these waves bounce off the insects on which they feed or against objects that they must locate, returning the information in the form of signals to bats’ ears about location.

Example of the relationship function in animals

Another case that deserves special mention is that of carnivorous plants , such as the Venus flytrap ( Dionaea muscipula).Carnivorous plants usually feed on nutrients and minerals that they extract from the soil, but when these are scarce, they are endowed with a system of perception of insects in their leaves. According to some studies, the venus flytrap has a series of hairs that act as sensors on the surfaces of its leaves and are capable of “counting” the times that these hairs have been brushed by potential prey, in order to know whether or not it is feasible to invest the amount of energy that supposes them to feed on this type of prey. When the frequency of contact of the hairs is high, the plant quickly closes its leaves and traps the insect inside, which will be decomposed by specific enzymes secreted by the plant for its digestion.

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