Characteristics Of Life

The world is filled with familiar objects, such as tables, rocks, plants, pets, and automobiles. Which of these objects are living or were once living? What are the criteria for assigning something to the living world or the nonliving world? Biologists have established that living things share seven characteristics of life. These characteristics are organization and the presence of one or more cells, response to a stimulus (plural, stimuli), homeostasis, metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, and change through time.

Organization and Cells

Organization is the high degree of order within an organism's internal and external parts and in its interactions with the living world. For example, compare an owl to a rock. The rock has a specific shape, but that shape is usually irregular. Furthermore, different rocks, even rocks of the same type, are likely to have different shapes and sizes. In contrast, the owl is an amazingly organized individual, as shown in Figure 1-2. Owls of the same species have the same body parts arranged in nearly the same way and interact with the environment in the same way.

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