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The urinary system is made-up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The nephron, an evolutionary modification of the nephridium, is the kidney's functional unit. Waste is filtered from the blood and collected as urine in each kidney. Urine leaves the kidneys by ureters, and collects in the bladder. The bladder can distend to store urine that eventually leaves through the urethra.
Human excretory system and the details of the kidney. Images from Purves et al., Life: The Science of Biology, 4th Edition, by Sinauer Associates (www.sinauer.com) and WH Freeman (www.whfreeman.com), used with permission.
The nephron consists of a cup-shaped capsule containing capillaries and the glomerulus, and a long renal tube. Blood flows into the kidney through the renal artery, which branches into capillaries associated with the glomerulus. Arterial pressure causes water and solutes from the blood to filter into the capsule. Fluid flows through the proximal tubule, which include the loop of Henle, and then into the distal tubule. The distal tubule empties into a collecting duct. Fluids and solutes are returned to the capillaries that surround the nephron tubule.
Filtration of the blood in the fine structure of the kidneys. Image from Purves et al., Life: The Science of Biology, 4th Edition, by Sinauer Associates (www.sinauer.com) and WH Freeman (www.whfreeman.com), used with permission.
The nephron has three functions:
Nephrons filter 125 ml of body fluid per minute; filtering the entire body fluid component 16 times each day. In a 24 hour period nephrons produce 180 liters of filtrate, of which 178.5 liters are reabsorbed. The remaining 1.5 liters forms urine.
Components of The Nephron
In some cases, excess wastes crystallize as kidney stones. They grow and can become a painful irritant that may require surgery or ultrasound treatments. Some stones are small enough to be forced into the urethra, others are the size of huge, massive boulders (or so I am told).