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Integumentary System

Plant Integumentary System, Invertebrate Integuments, Human Integumentary System, Skin DisordersVertebrate integumentary systems

The integumentary system includes the skin and the related structures that cover and protect the bodies of plants and animals. The integumentary system of plants includes the epidermis, cuticle, plant hairs, and glands. The integumentary system of invertebrates includes shells and exoskeletons as body covering. The integumentary system of vertebrates comprises skin, scales, feathers, hair and glands. The human integumentary system is made up of the skin which includes glands, hair, and nails. In humans, the skin protects the body, prevents water loss, regulates body temperature, and senses the external environment.

Keratin, an insoluble protein in the outer layer of the skin of vertebrates, helps prevent water loss and dehydration and has contributed to the successful adaptation to life on land. Keratin is also the major protein found in nails, hooves, horns, hair, and wool. Feathers, scales, claws and beaks of birds and reptiles are also composed of keratin.

The epidermis

Ninety percent of the epidermis, including the outer layers, contains keratinocytes cells that produce keratin, a protein that helps waterproof and protect the skin. Melanocytes are pigment cells that produce melanin, a brown-black pigment that adds to skin color and absorbs ultraviolet light thereby shielding the genetic material in skin cells from damage. Merkel's cells disks are touch-sensitive cells found in the deepest layer of the epidermis of hairless skin.

In most areas of the body, the epidermis consists of four layers. On the soles of the feet and palms of the hands where there is a lot of friction, the epidermis has five layers. In addition, calluses, abnormal thickenings of the epidermis, occur on skin subject to constant friction. At the skin surface, the outer layer of the epidermis constantly sheds the dead cells containing keratin. The uppermost layer consists of about 25 rows of flat dead cells that contain keratin.

The dermis

The dermis is made up of connective tissue that contains protein, collagen, and elastic fibers. It also contains blood and lymph vessels, sensory receptors, related nerves, and glands. The outer part of the dermis has fingerlike projections, called dermal papillae, that indent the lower layer of the epidermis. Dermal papillae cause ridges in the epidermis above it, which in the digits give rise to fingerprints. The ridge pattern of fingerprints is inherited, and is unique to each individual. The dermis is thick in the palms and soles, but very thin in other places, such as the eyelids. The blood vessels in the dermis contain a volume of blood. If a part of the body, such as a working muscle, needs more blood, blood vessels in the dermis constrict, causing blood to leave the skin and enter the circulation that leads to muscles and other body parts. Sweat glands whose ducts pass through the epidermis to the outside and open on the skin surface through pores are embedded in the deep layers of the dermis. Hair follicles and hair roots also originate in the dermis and the hair shafts extend from the hair root through the skin layers to the surface. Also in the dermis are sebaceous glands associated with hair follicles which produce an oily substance called sebum. Sebum softens the hair and prevents it from drying, but if sebum blocks up a sebaceous gland, a whitehead appears on the skin. A blackhead results if the material oxidizes and dries. Acne is caused by infections of the sebaceous glands. When this occurs, the skin breaks out in pimples and can become scarred.

The skin is an important sense organ and as such includes a number of nerves which are mainly in the dermis, with a few reaching the epidermis. Nerves carry impulses to and from hair muscles, sweat glands, and blood vessels, and receive messages from touch, temperature, and pain receptors. Some nerve endings are specialized such as sensory receptors that detect external stimuli. The nerve endings in the dermal papillae are known as Meissner's corpuscles, which detect light touch, such as a pat, or the feel of clothing on the skin. Pacinian corpuscles, located in the deeper dermis, are stimulated by stronger pressure on the skin. Receptors near hair roots detect displacement of the skin hairs by stimuli such as touch or wind. Bare nerve endings throughout the skin report information to the brain about temperature change (both heat and cold), texture, pressure, and trauma.

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