excretion, process of eliminating from an organism waste products of metabolism and other materials that are of no use. It is an essential process in all forms of life. In one-celled organisms wastes are discharged through the surface of the cell. The higher plants eliminate gases through the stomata, or pores, on the leaf surface. Multicellular animals have special excretory organs. In humans the main organs of excretion are the kidneys and accessory urinary organs, through which urine is eliminated (see urinary system), and the large intestines, from which solid wastes are expelled. The skin and lungs also have excretory functions: The skin eliminates water and salt in sweat, and the lungs expel water vapor and carbon dioxide.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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