Anonymous asked in Science & MathematicsBiology · 9 years ago

What is an emergent property in Biology?

I'm trying to read by AP Biology book and do book work over the summer and I came across "emergent properties". I don't really understand that...what does it mean? What is an example?

Please put it in simple terms.

3 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    An "emergent property" is a characteristic that appears once the minor parts are assembled. An example in Biology is the assembly of amino acids into a protein: an amino acid, by itself, cannot perform the functions of an enzyme, but if you put the right ones together in the correct order, they become an enzyme. The enzymatic function of the polypeptide is an "emergent property."

    Source(s): Forty years teaching Biology
  • ?
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    Not just in biology!

    From the dictionary: Emergent properties - arising and existing only as a phenomenon of independent parts working together, and not predictable on the basis of their properties.

    In other words, it's where a collection of things working together have new properties that are more than just the sum of the parts. For example, organisms are more than just bags of cells. They do things you would hardly expect (or predict) from the properties of mere cells, such as howling at the moon, being allergic to peanut butter, filling the atmosphere with oxygen and our fuel tanks with oil. These are emergent properties.

    Personally, I think emergence is an illusion. Who is to say what is predictable? The fact that the same types of systems reliably produce the same kinds of emergent properties indicates they are quite predictable on some level even though it is not yet understood by scientists. Come back in a decade or two.

  • 9 years ago

    Composites may have properties that are not present in their components. A collection of asteroids, none which can support an atmosphere in which liquid water can exist, may aggregate into a planet which does.

    Life is similar. A plant and an animal may start in a relationship in which the plant gains energy from sunlight and the animal eats the plant, but may develop into and ecosystem in which the plant propagates better because of some behavior of the animal (e.g. accidental seed transport).

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