How does water facilitate life? Water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, a seemingly basic compound. In reality, water helps us survive. As I’ve recently learned about the properties of water in my own biology class, I wanted to explore its larger implications on life.
Water has a High Specific Heat and is a Thermoregulator
Many organisms use thermoregulation to survive. It helps them maintain their body temperature in different environments. Many living creatures have this ability, from plants to humans. Water has a high specific heat capacity – the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1kg of water by 1 degrees Celsius. In other words, water can absorb much heat before a heat in temperature occurs. This is helpful for us because blood is largely made of water. Sweating also involves this aspect of water. When sweat evaporates, heat from our bodies are absorbed. Therefore sweating can help us manage our body temperature during exercise.
Ice is Less Dense than Water
The solid form of water is less dense than its liquid form. This is because ice has a unique structure. Water molecules are locked in a structured lattice, more spread out than they are in liquid. This characteristic is important because it accounts for why ice floats on water and why lakes freeze from top to bottom. This way, habitats of organisms living in ponds do not diminish over the winter. Furthermore, the solid layer of ice that forms on the surface acts as an insulating layer. This prevents the endangerment of pond inhabitants.
Water is a “Universal Solvent”
Water is a polar molecule. It has a negative charge around the oxygen atom, and a positive charge around the two hydrogen atoms. Because of this feature, water can easily form bonds with other polar molecules. Many biological molecules are polar, therefore water can dissolve them. In terms of real-world applications, water can help cells transport nutrients and oxygen in the body. It also helps dissolve the pills we consume.
We couldn’t ask for a better substance to cover much of Earth!