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Sizes of Organisms: The Surface Area to Volume Ratio

Author(s): Lou Gross1, Monica Beals1, Susan Harrell1

University of Tennessee Knoxville

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This module introduces surface area-volume ratio in the context of understanding the limits or constraints on organism size. It is intended for an introductory biology audience.

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Version 1.0 - published on 15 Feb 2019 doi:10.25334/Q44J03 - cite this


This activity maps to the OpenStax biology textbook, 30.6 Plant Sensory Systems and Responses

Student Introduction: Two- and three-dimensional parameters of organisms (i.e., surface area and volume) do not necessarily increase or decrease proportionally to increases or decreases in one-dimensional, or linear, parameters (i.e., length). For example, the greater the diameter of a single-celled organism, the less surface area it has relative to its volume. The surface area to volume ratio is a way of expressing the relationship between these parameters as an organism's size changes.

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