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Attributes of Living Organisms

The attributes of living organisms are given below and is represented in Figure 1.1.
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Growth is an intrinsic property of all living organisms through which they can increase cells both in number and mass. Unicellular and multicellular organisms grow by cell division. In plants, growth is indefinite and occurs throughout their life. In animals, growth is definite and occurs for some period. Growth in non-living objects is extrinsic.

Mountains, boulders and sand mounds grow by simple aggregation of material on the surface. Living cells grow by the addition of new protoplasm within the cells. Therefore, growth in living thing is intrinsic. In unicellular organisms like Bacteria and Amoeba growth occurs by cell division and such cell division also leads to the growth of their population. Hence, growth and reproduction are mutually inclusive events.

Cellular Structure

All living organisms are made up of cells which may be prokaryotic or eukaryotic. Prokaryotes are unicellular, lack membrane bound nuclei and organelles like mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi bodies and so on (Example: Bacteria and Blue green algae). In Eukaryotes a definite nucleus and membrane bound organelles are present. Eukaryotes may be unicellular (Amoeba) or multicellular (Oedogonium).


Reproduction is one of the fundamental characteristic features of living organisms. It is the tendency of a living organism to perpetuate its own species. There are two types of reproduction namely asexual and sexual (Figure 1.2).
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Asexual reproduction refers to the production of the progeny possessing features more or less similar to those of parents. The sexual reproduction brings out variation through recombination. Asexual reproduction in living organisms occurs by the production of conidia (Aspergillus, Penicillium), budding (Hydra and Yeast), binary fission (Bacteria and Amoeba) fragmentation (Spirogyra), protonema (Mosses) and regeneration (Planaria). Exceptions are the sterile worker bees and mules.

Response to Stimuli

All organisms are capable of sensing their environment and respond to various physical, chemical and biological stimuli. Animals sense their surroundings by sense organs. This is called Consciousness. Plants also respond to the stimuli. Bending of plants towards sunlight, the closure of leaves in touch-me-not plant to touch are some examples for response to stimuli in plants. This type of response is called Irritability.


Property of self-regulation and tendency to maintain a steady state within an external environment which is liable to change is called Homeostasis. It is essential for the living organism to maintain internal condition to survive in the environment.


The sum of all the chemical reactions taking place in a cell of living organism is called metabolism. It is broadly divided into anabolism and catabolism. The difference between anabolism and catabolism is given in Table 1.1.
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Movement, Nutrition, Respiration and Excretion are also considered as the property of living things. The levels of organization in living organism begin with atoms and end in Biosphere. Each level cannot exist in isolation instead they form levels of integration as given in Figure 1.3.
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Activity 1.1

Collect Vallisneria leaves or Chara from nearby aquarium and observe a leaf or Chara thallus (internodal region) under the microscope. You could see cells clearly under the microscope. Could you notice the movement of cytoplasm? The movement of cytoplasm is called cytoplasmic streaming or cyclosis.