The Seven Characteristics Of Life

Seven distinct attributes that differentiate living beings from inanimate objects are some essential characteristics of life. This article will inform you about these seven characteristics of life shared by every living organism.

The Seven Characteristics of Life

Biologists have discovered these characteristics of life during their studies of living organisms. Life is distinguished by active organisms from inorganic matter.

Life can be self-sufficient compared to organisms that don’t possess life due to death or being inanimate.

Every living organism is made from cells, uses energy, maintains homeostasis, responds to stimuli, reproduces, and adapts to different environmental changes. The offspring will then inherit these genes to evolve then.

Biology students will first learn about the characteristics that determine life. Living organisms share these fundamental characteristics, which separate them from inanimate beings.

While some traits can be specific to certain species, these are all seven characteristics shared by every living being on the planet.

Adaptation And Evolving

All living organisms adapt to their environment to sustain themselves. If a living organism lives in a particular domain, it will evolve to help accumulate to its environment. You may find examples of this if you find plants grown in the desert.

Over several generations, they have adapted to their environment by forming succulent leaves that allow them to store and conserve water to help them survive. Adaptation is a fundamental process of evolution.

However, you should not get confused between adaptation and evolution. While adaptation is a short-term change of an organism to suit its environment, evolution is a long-term change.

Evolution occurs on a genetic level to ensure better functioning and survival for a living organism; thus, adaptation is a part of the evolutionary process.


Cells comprise the formation of all living organisms. They are a basic unit of every living organism, with every living being having a singular cell or more.

Unicellular organisms are composed of one singular cell, while multicellular organisms are composed of numerous cells with different, distinct functions. A cell is formed by many different organelles performing specific tasks.

In a cell, you will find the nucleus, which works as a command center. It will send directions to parts of the cell and house an organism’s DNA.

The nucleus is then surrounded by a nuclear envelope which protects the DNA and separates the nucleus from other parts of the cell.

Around the nucleus and other parts of the cell is the cytoplasm, a jelly-like fluid surrounding them. Ribosomes inside the cytoplasm process a cell’s genetic instructions to create proteins.

Surrounding the outer lining of the cell is the plasma membrane, which separates the cell from its environment and lets materials come and go from the cell.

The shape of a cell is defined by the cytoskeleton, which participates in dividing cells and allows them to move. It even directs the movements of the organelles within each cell.

The cell gets energy due to the mitochondria, which convert energy from food, and they can make copies of themselves separate from the Nucleus.

The endoplasmic reticulum then transports molecules created by the cell. The molecules inside are packaged by the Golgi apparatus for transportation outside the cell.

Any invading bacteria is removed by lysosomes and peroxisomes, which serve as the cell’s recycling center.

From the amount of work a cell does, you can see that they work as the cell’s organs. These form the same tissues which form organs in humans and animals.

Energy Responses

The Seven Characteristics of Life

Living organisms need energy to live and survive. Without energy, living organisms cannot grow, reproduce, or repair any damage to themselves. These are only a few examples of what becomes unsustainable without energy.

Most organisms get energy from ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), a molecule that carries energy. You can find ATP in all living things’ cells, which often fuels the cell’s processes.

Your metabolism is a chemical reaction from your body’s cells that transforms food into energy. Specific proteins in your body control them. The energy is used immediately or stored for later use as fat.

Anabolism processes the energy released by catabolism to synthesize complex molecules. It uses energy to transform chemicals into smaller cellular components such as molecules.

Catabolism generates energy by breaking down other molecules from organic matter.

An example of how living organisms get energy is shown by plants and animals. Plants convert energy they derive from sunlight through photosynthesis to create nutrients.

Animals, meanwhile, must consume other living organisms to add to their energy needs.

Environmental Response

Every living organism responds to environmental stimuli, including lights, temperatures, and sounds.

These environmental responses can occur in any form. When unicellular organisms are exposed to chemicals, they shrink.

You may find that humans suddenly jerk away when they respond to extreme temperatures. An example is when you accidentally touch something hot. You will automatically pull your hand away.

Organisms generally express environmental responses in the form of motion. Most people who find issues with the stimuli in their environment may become overwhelmed or try to block out if there are too many stimuli.


All living organisms receive hereditary traits from their parents in the form of genes. Offspring will inherit their parents’ genes, which are composed of the parents’ DNA. These genes make each organism exhibit characteristics that each parent shares.

You may find genes passed down such as physical traits, including eye and hair color, blood types, diseases, or behavior. You may find that some genes are dominant, but others are recessive.

Geneticists study the process of heredity in genetics and investigate the genes passed down through generations.

You may find that a medical geneticist will diagnose and treat genetic disorders or conditions passed on through the family.


Homeostasis is the process in which the internal environment of a body is regulated to maintain stability.

Claude Bernard first realized that the body had its own systems that worked to keep the internal environment of a body within certain limits that would allow optimal functions.

Walter Cannon then added to this by suggesting that homeostasis is an automatic function that results from an organism’s organized self-government.

He indicated that the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal gland work together to maintain homeostasis in emergencies.

Every living organism needs a stable environment to sustain its metabolism. Any disturbance in an organism’s internal environment may disrupt normal processes.

One example of homeostasis is how a body responds to temperature. By shivering when you are cold, your body will produce heat, but when you’re feeling hot, your body produces sweat to help evaporate heat from the body.


All living organisms reproduce, either asexually or sexually. Asexual reproduction is when a single parent produces an organism, and this is usually done when a unicellular organism divides to form a daughter cell.

Sexual reproduction is when two parents of each sex contribute genetic information to form another organism. Usually, this occurs in humans, mammals, avians, amphibians, vertebrates, and reptiles.

However, there have been cases in certain species of amphibians, vertebrates, and reptiles that do rely on asexual reproduction.

When you think of asexual reproduction, you will mostly find it more commonly in plants, which create their offspring through asexual reproduction.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, these are the seven characteristics of life shared by all living organisms on the planet. Inanimate objects will not have any of these qualities. However, plants, humans, and animals all share these same characteristics.

With the use of this article, you should have a better understanding of these seven characteristics and how they work.

If you are ever confused between a living organism and an inanimate one, observe whether it has any of these features or characteristics.

Some living organisms have more characteristics than these seven, but these are the main features shared by every living creature on the planet.

Jennifer Dawkins

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