CHAPTER – 7
Control and Coordination
In the previous chapter, we looked at life processes involved in the maintenance functions in living organisms. There, we had started with a notion we all have, that if we see something moving, it is alive. Some of these movements are in fact the result of growth, as in plants. A seed germinates and grows, and we can see that the seedling moves over the course of a few days, it pushes soil aside and comes out. But if its growth were to be stopped, these movements would not happen. Some movements, as in many animals and some plants, are not connected with growth. A cat running, children playing on swings, buffaloes chewing cud – these are not movements caused by growth.
Why do we associate such visible movements with life? A possible answer is that we think of movement as a response to a change in the environment of the organism. The cat may be running because it has seen a mouse. Not only that, we also think of movement as an attempt by living organisms to use changes in their environment to their advantage. Plants grow out into the sunshine. Children try to get pleasure and fun out of swinging. Buffaloes chew cud to help break up tough food so as to be able to digest it better. When bright light is focussed on our eyes or when we touch a hot object, we detect the change and respond to it with movement in order to protect ourselves.
If we think a bit more about this, it becomes apparent that all this movement, in response to the environment, is carefully controlled. Each kind of a change in the environment evokes an appropriate movement in response. When we want to talk to our friends in class, we whisper, rather than shouting loudly. Clearly, the movement to be made depends on the event that is triggering it. Therefore, such controlled movement must be connected to the recognition of various events in the environment, followed by only the correct movement in response. In other words, living organisms must use systems providing control and coordination. In keeping with the general principles of body organization in multicellular organisms, specialised tissues are used to provide these control and coordination activities.