Characteristics of living beings

All living beings, be they single-celled organisms, plants, fungi or animals, including humans, share certain common characteristics: they are all capable of feeding, growing and reproducing, which distinguishes them from the non-living elements of nature. We will explain each of these characteristics further below.

1. They have cellular organization

Living things are made up of cells, the basic unit of life. These have a complex internal composition and can form structures of higher levels of complexity when joined together. There may be unicellular or multicellular living organisms.

Single-celled organisms are made up of a single cell and have a simple internal organization. For example, bacteria.

Unicellular organism. It is a paramecium, from the Protista kingdom.

Multicellular organisms have a higher level of cellular organization. As cells are grouped together, they form tissues and these, in turn, form the vital organs that give rise to a complex living being. For example, plants, animals and humans.

Tissues that form organisms of multicellular structures. In this case, we see the human being, an example of the Animalia kingdom.

Watch:

  • Cell
  • Levels of organization of matter

2. They perform various vital functions

Each and every living thing fulfills a series of vital functions during its life cycle, which are to breathe, feed, metabolize and excrete.

Breathing. All living beings need to breathe, a mechanism that they fulfill in different ways and in different environments depending on their ecosystem.

  • Aerobic respiration: when oxygen is taken in from air or water. For example, land animals and aquatic animals.
  • Anaerobic respiration: when another element, such as sulfur, is used to replace oxygen. For example, bacteria.

Nutrition. Food is the process by which living beings obtain the necessary nutrients to survive. It can be heterotrophic or autotrophic.

  • Nutrition or heterotrophic feeding: when the nutrients are obtained from other living beings. For example, herbivorous animals (such as sheep, cattle), carnivorous animals (such as lions, tigers, and spiders), and omnivorous animals (such as humans).
  • Nutrition or autotrophic feeding: when they do not depend on other living beings for nourishment, that is, they produce their own food. For example, plants.

Metabolization It refers to the chemical reactions produced by cells. Metabolization is done through two processes, which are anabolism and catabolism.

  • Anabolism: synthesize new compounds from simple molecules.
  • Catabolism: decomposes compounds into simple products.

Excretion. Excretion is the process through which living beings eliminate useless or toxic substances from the body. That is, it is the process to expel waste.

See also:

  • Breathing
  • Nutrition
  • Metabolism

3. They grow, develop and die

Example: life cycle of a hen or a rooster.

All living beings have a life cycle limited in time, according to their particular characteristics. During this period, living beings undergo a process of growth in size, development of their potentialities (including reproduction), aging and death.

In other words, all living things go through a life cycle that begins in gestation, followed by birth, growth or development, reproduction, and death.

It may interest you: What are living beings?

4. They reproduce

Living beings are capable of reproducing. In this way, they pass on their genes to new generations and achieve the survival of the species. The reproduction of living beings can be sexual or asexual.

  • Sexual reproduction: occurs when the presence of two parents (male and female) is necessary for fertilization. For example, mammals like lions and dolphins.
  • Asexual reproduction: occurs when only one individual is capable of generating other identical individuals. For example, bacteria or starfish do not need a partner in order to procreate.

Watch:

  • Reproduction
  • Reproduction types

5. They react to stimuli

Living beings need to interact with the environment to live and, therefore, react to the stimuli they receive from it. This ability to react is called irritability. This characteristic allows living beings to react to chemical, physical and sensory stimuli that are essential for their development. For example, living things respond to aromas, sounds, textures, visual stimuli, etc.

6. They are able to regulate their internal environment

Living things run a process called homeostasis. Homeostasis consists specifically in the ability of living beings to keep their environment or internal condition stable in the face of certain changes in the environment.

An example of homeostasis is the process of sweating in humans, the purpose of which is to regulate the internal temperature when there is excess heat in the environment.

Dogs are also able to regulate their temperature when it is very hot. That is the reason why dogs pant with their tongues sticking out.

See also: Homeostasis

7. They adapt to the environment

Chameleon. Example of adaptation by mimesis or camouflage with the environment.

Living beings are capable of adapting to certain changes in the conditions of the ecosystem. This ability allows them to guarantee subsistence and survival, by adopting different characteristics.

For example, some animals are able to camouflage or blend in with the environment to protect themselves. This is the case of chameleons, which change their color according to the tone of the nearby elements. It is also the case of some insects such as stick insects, certain varieties of butterflies, etc.

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