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Answer on Other Biology Question for Hannah

Question #47385
Describe the various characteristics of the carbon atom that make possible the building of a variety of biological molecules
Expert's answer
In living organisms, carbon atoms most commonlyform covalent bonds with other carbons and with hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur atoms. Bonds between two carbon atoms, between carbon and oxygen, or between carbon and nitrogen can be single or double in organic compounds. The combination of carbon with itself and with different elements and different types of bonds allows a vast number of organic compounds to be formed from only a few chemical elements. This is made all the more impressive because carbon bonds may occur in configurations that are linear, ring like, or highly branched. Such molecular shapes can produce molecules with a variety of functions. One last feature of carbon that is important in biochemistry is that carbon bonds are stable at the different temperatures associated with life. This property arises in part because the carbon atom is very small compared to most other atoms, and therefore the distance between carbon atoms forming carbon – carbon bonds is quite short. Shorter bonds tend to be stronger and more stable than longer bonds between two large atoms. 

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