Basic Characteristics of Organisms
Before we dive in too deep, let’s define an organism. Organism comes from the Greek word organon, which literally means “instrument.” In short, an organism is anything that is living, senses, experiences growth, reproduces, and works to regulate internal conditions.
But like I said, that is in short. Let’s go a little deeper and look at the seven characteristics of a living organism.
- Nourishment – All living things are dependent on external resources to grow, repair, and to maintain current internal procese. So, an organism must take in nutrients to obtain the energy it needs to maintain all of its functions.
- Respiration – Now, we need to be sure not to confuse respiration with breathing. Breathing is the more physical process where we inhale oxygen, and exhale carbon dioxide; respiration is a more chemical process, however, breathing is very important for respiration to take place. Respiration is when oxygen and glucose combine to produce carbon dioxide, water, and ATP. Something that is interesting to note is that autotrophs (or any organism that is photosynthesizing) are dependent on heterotrophs (organisms that are not photosynthesizing, like humans), and vice versa.
- Motion – Every living thing moves. This may seem like an obvious observation with organisms like humans, animals, insects, but plants move as well; and I’m not talking about them being moved by the wind, they actually move on their own. Leaves turn to face the sun, flowers open and close, and climbing plants literally reach out until they can grab onto something.
- Expel – with all these nutrients coming in and being used for energy the waste has to go somewhere—out. In fact, the waste from the chemical reactions, that go on within the organism, can actually be toxic to the organism so it must be excreted or expelled from the organism. All organisms excrete or expel waste.
- Grow – all living organisms grow. Growth in an organism can be defined as the constant increase of size and the number of cells.
- Reproduce – Every organism has the capability to produce offspring. Living things multiply.
- Sensing – Sensing refers to the ability that every organism has, and that is to sense and to react to stimuli. Stimuli include things like chemicals, water, gravity, light, and temperature.
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