Discuss one disadvantage of mammals or plants  having a large surface area. Thanks

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trophyhunter1's profile pic

trophyhunter1 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A plant with leaves that have a large surface area such as those found in the tropics, will also have many stomates. These openings allow water vapor to leave via transpiration. In a tropical rainforest, this is not an issue, as it always rains. However, it would not work in places where it is seasonally dry or even dry year round. Therefore, deciduous trees drop their broad leaves in autumn, thus preventing further water loss during winter months, while desert cacti have needles which contain a very small surface area. There are few stomates and few opportunities for water loss. This is an adaptation for survival in an environment where water is a limiting factor. In elephants, the large surface area of their ears which are also thin, is a way to lose some of the heat their large body absorbs, as their ears are loaded with capillaries. Having a large surface area means that a good transport system is needed to supply all the cells of the body with needed oxygen, nutrients and waste removal. It also means that the large body is slower to gain as well as to lose heat. Therefore, it needs mechanisms to maintain body temperature or homeostasis will be upset.

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jerichorayel's profile pic

jerichorayel | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Animals and plants differ in their physical structures which can help them in adaptation in the environment. One characteristic is the surface area or the total outside area of any particular organism. The smaller the organism is, the larger its surface area to volume (SA/V) ratio.

These changes have an effect in comparing two organisms with different SA/V ratio. The amount of materials needed of any particular organisms to survive depends on its volume while the rate of the interaction of molecules with the surroundings depends on the surface area: volume. Having said that, we can say that mice will have high rate of metabolism (smaller animal, larger SA:V) than elephants (larger animal, smaller SA:V).

One disadvantage of having a large surface area to volume ratio is the heat loss. An organism that has larger surface area has high rate heat gain and heat loss. Therefore they need to eat or acquire nutrients faster in order to sustain life. Organisms with large surface area often eat more than of their sizes every day. Therefore organisms with larger surface area cannot survive long periods of time without food. 

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