Characteristics of living things

While some scientists and organizations list as few as 5 traits, plenty of authorities agree on eight attributes of living things. The eight characteristics of life things space not a hierarchy. One trait does no outrank another.

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8 attributes of life

Since person life began, we have attempted to define what life is. Our present scientific knowledge shows eight attributes of life:

Adaptation with evolutionCellular organizationGrowth and also developmentHeredityHomeostasisMetabolismReproductionResponse come stimuli


We defined each that them below in alphabetical order to avoid bias.

Adaptation through evolution

Successful organisms usage adaptation through evolution come survive. Organisms that cannot evolve cannot keep up with an altering environments, end up being extinct. This is what we call natural selection.


All develops of life evolve. They it is adapted to the external environment, change their heritable traits, and also prepare future generations for much more efficient life processes. This characteristic has actually been checked out in the activities in a fruit fly experiment that showed evolution at job-related within a expectations of 60 years.

Cellular organization

So far, whatever biologists have found to it is in alive uses cell structure to organize molecule into valuable tissues and also organs. Every life forms use cells, whether they room single-celled biology or multicellular organisms such together plant cell or animals.

The general structures relocate along a line from cell to organization to body organ to being, which offers us words “organism,” a living thing with body organ systems. Cellular company is seen in something as basic as a fungus cell. From an easy bacteria approximately mammals, life uses cellular organization.


Growth and also development

Living points grow. To maintain resources, biology reproduce with immature and little copies of themselves. There is no straining the parent organism, these little copies gather their very own resources come grow, enlarge, mature, age, and also reproduce themselves. Humans are excellent examples of growth and development. Eventually, biology die, returning your gathered sources to the earth for reuse by brand-new organisms. The cycles and also stages of life are growth and also development.



Life transfers characteristics to offspring via deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA); these space the structure blocks that life. From viruses to humans, characteristics that benefit the parents room transferred in gene to the offspring. For humans, this hereditary material hold our genetic information such as eye color, skin color, and also hair type, simply to surname a few.


Unfortunately, mistakes, mutations, and traits that damage can also be transferred v our hereditary material. Whether for good or bad, life exists through heredity.


Maintaining a steady internal atmosphere is referred to as homeostasis. Your body, choose that that a cat or a cactus, must maintain a stable atmosphere inside. For every inhalation, for example, you have to exhale. If you take in food, girlfriend must eliminate waste. If girlfriend lack enough water for cellular functions, you will gain thirsty. Human body temperature, a homeostatic biological process, has its mechanical tantamount in the thermostats, regulation room temperature in buildings and also homes.


Homeostasis is how living organisms preserve their interior systems.


Chemical reactions within cells, tissues, organs, and also living us perform assorted actions that keep the organism alive. These reactions malfunction incoming food, send nutrient to cells, remove waste products, transform energy, and synthesize brand-new chemicals. Together, this processes lead to growth, system repair, and excretion. Photosynthesis in plants is a metabolic process. Together, an organism’s chemical reactions space its metabolism.



Successful biology reproduce. From fleeting mayflies living someday to Aldabra tortoises reaching 120 years to the old Methuselah bristlecone jaw (4,800+ years), all life engages in reproduction.


Response to Stimuli

Scientists have been able to coax crystal frameworks to adjust behavior once exposed come blue light. Despite this does not typical the crystals room alive, they exhibition a an answer to a stimulus, simply as girlfriend respond to having actually your name dubbed or your leg pinched. Phototropism is a plant’s an answer to stimuli (turning toward the light). Everything alive mirrors a response come stimuli.


Characteristics that life examples

Biologists, biologic students, and thinking civilization all ponder the meaning of life. What is life? when is other alive, and also when does that only appear to be alive?

The perform of features of life is not finished. As human beings explore past our reach, we find an ext puzzles.

Extremophiles have been discovered living about hydrothermal vents on the seafloor whereby no irradiate reaches. How deserve to they, or acid-loving, radiation-resistant organisms favor exist?

What are the qualities of a cell?

The basic organizing structure of living things is the cell, a little version the the larger organism’s processes. Separation, personal, instance cells lug on life processes themselves. The characteristics that a cell:

Cells separate themselves native their setting with cell walls, referred to as cell membranesCells bring on homeostasis v cytoplasm, the liquid within the membrane and the medium holding the organelles, or cabinet structuresOrganelles bring on metabolism and also other life processes within the cell membraneAll cells lug their own heredity markers, DNA, in ~ some phase of their advance (though some, prefer red blood cell in humans, do not have DNA in ~ maturity)

Cells differentiate and also build top top these simple functions by either not having actually a nucleus (prokaryotic) or having actually a cell core (eukaryotic).

Are crystals alive?

We discussed that scientists coaxed crystals right into showing solution to a stimulus. So are crystals alive? What around crystals “growing” in caves, or street crystals forming in sugar water to do rock candy?

This is the risk of relying on only among the eight characteristics of life. Because that something to it is in alive, it have to exhibit all eight characteristics.

Crystals accrete, i beg your pardon could appear to show growth and also development, yet they cannot reproduce, can not metabolize resources, cannot excrete waste, and have no cell structures to keep DNA.

Some spiritual adherents see crystals as being “alive” v energy and also auras, yet biologically, crystals are not alive.

Is bacteria life or nonliving?

To learn if bacteria are living or nonliving things, let’s go v the list:

Adaptation with evolution – Bacteria evolve; lock evolve quickly because they deserve to reproduce in ~ an incredibly fast rate (#3, #4, and also #6)Cellular organization – Bacteria, by meaning are single cells, yet they are cells through cell walls, ribosomes, flagella, and also DNAGrowth and development – Bacteria do not show growth and advance the exact same way greater forms the life do, however one bacter splits right into two daughter cells as part of a life bicycle of lag phase, logarithm phase, stationary phase, and death phaseHeredity – Bacteria save on computer DNA and, typically, RNAHomeostasis – Bacteria usage their cabinet membranes to carry out homeostasisMetabolism – Autotrophy (unique come bacteria), photosynthesis, anaerobic respiration, heterotrophic metabolism, fermentation, and also the Krebs cycle room all facets of bacterial metabolismReproduction – with binary cabinet division, bacteria reproduce in exponential numbers in really short periods compared to higher forms the life

Bacteria fulfill all the needs for being taken into consideration living things. Bacteria are alive.

Are viruses life organisms?

Viruses space trickier come classify than bacteria. Let’s use our trusty perform again:

Adaptation with evolution – Viruses have the right to mutate and also evolve; this is one facet of their behavior that renders them so challenging to fight when they epidemic populationsCellular organization – Viruses have actually no cellsHeredity – Viruses contain one of two people DNA or RNA; seldom do they possess bothHomeostasis – Viruses cannot perform homeostasisMetabolism – Viruses perform not have actually metabolismReproduction – Viruses can only reproduce inside the cells of various other organisms, i m sorry they carry out at astoundingly high ratesResponse to stimuli – Viruses carry out not respond to stimuli

Viruses have every one of the qualities of living things except to move organization, homeostasis, metabolism, and an answer to stimuli.

Currently, most biologists, virologists, doctors, and general scientists say viruses are not alive. That reasoning may change as an ext evidence, such as the huge mimivirus, is revealed.

Which attributes of life does a computer have?

It may sound silly, but a an excellent test of life"s definition is to use it to points we think of together non-living. Just how does a computer system stack up? as soon as more, to the list!

Adaptation through evolution – computer systems can evolveCellular organization – computers have no cell Growth and development – computer systems do no grow and also developHeredity – computers contain no DNA or RNAHomeostasis – computer systems cannot do homeostasisMetabolism – computers obtain and also use energy to functionReproduction – computer systems cannot reproduceResponse to stimuli – computer systems can respond to stimuli

Since computers have only evolution, a sort of metabolism, and an answer to stimuli, they can not be thought about alive. Castle lack 5 of the eight characteristics of life.

Characteristics of life quiz

See exactly how much girlfriend know about life. Shot these questions and also then check our answers against yours.

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Name any kind of five features of living organisms.Which the the adhering to are nature of life:ReproductionHunting of preyResponse to stimuliWhich features of life walk an car have?

Behold, the answers together we know them today:

Five features of living organisms you might have detailed could include any type of of these: adaptation with evolution, to move organization, growth and development, heredity, homeostasis, reproduction, metabolism, and an answer to stimuli.Of the traits listed, selection b., hunting that prey, is no a residential property of life.The solitary characteristic the life the an car might have is metabolism, in that it deserve to take in and use energy (gasoline or diesel) while developing waste exhaust and also water). That cannot do this ~ above its own, and it has actually no other qualities of life. An auto is no alive.