20: Energy Metabolism
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Life requires energy. Animals, for example, require heat energy to maintain body temperature, mechanical energy to move their limbs, and chemical energy to synthesize the compounds needed by their cells. Living cells remain organized and functioning properly only through a continual supply of energy. But only specific forms of energy can be used. Supplying a plant with energy by holding it in a flame will not prolong its life. On the other hand, a green plant is able to absorb radiant energy from the sun, the most abundant source of energy for life on the earth. Plants use this energy first to form glucose and then to make other carbohydrates, as well as lipids and proteins. Unlike plants, animals cannot directly use the sun’s energy to synthesize new compounds. They must eat plants or other animals to get carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and the chemical energy stored in them. Once digested and transported to the cells, the nutrient molecules can be used in either of two ways: as building blocks for making new cell parts or repairing old ones or “burned” for energy.