How Plants and Animals Survive in Their Environment

Plants and animals are separated by about 1.5 billion years of evolutionary history. They have evolved their multicellular organization independently but using the same initial tool kit the set of genes inherited from their common unicellular eucaryotic ancestor. Most of the contrasts in their developmental strategies spring from two basic peculiarities of plants. First, they get their energy from sunlight, not by ingesting other organisms. This dictates a body plan different from that of animals. Second, their cells are encased in semirigid cell walls and cemented together, preventing them from moving as animal cells do. This dictates a different set of mechanisms for shaping the body and different developmental processes to cope with a changeable environment.

Animal development is largely buffered against environmental changes, and the embryo generates the same genetically determined body structure unaffected by external conditions. The development of most plants, by contrast, is dramatically influenced by the environment. Because they cannot match themselves to their environment by moving from place to place, plants adapt instead by altering the course of their development. Their strategy is opportunistic. A given type of organ a leaf, a flower, or a root, say can be produced from the fertilized egg by many different paths according to environmental cues. A begonia leaf pegged to the ground may sprout a root; the root may throw up a shoot; the shoot, given sunlight, may grow leaves and flowers.


Animals spend energy to maintain an internally consistent state, while plants change their state in response to the environment.

Folksonomies: environment growth animals plants

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1.5 billion years:Quantity (0.010000 (neutral:0.000000))

Organism (0.960766): dbpedia | freebase
Bacteria (0.902704): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Developmental biology (0.869165): dbpedia | freebase
Cell (0.832168): dbpedia | freebase
Embryo (0.787502): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Archaea (0.776294): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Eukaryote (0.767233): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Photosynthesis (0.752249): dbpedia | freebase

 Molecular Biology of the Cell
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Alberts, Bruce (1989), Molecular Biology of the Cell, Routledge, Retrieved on 2013-06-21
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  • Folksonomies: science


    21 JUN 2013

     Plants, Animals, and Internal States

    Constant and Free Life > Additional Support/Evidence > How Plants and Animals Survive in Their Environment
    Animals are free thanks to their ability to carry a constant state within them, while plants must grow as their environment allows.