Characteristics of Living Things and Non-living Things


Characteristics of Living Things and Non-living Things

Biology is a science that deals with the living world. Its methods try are similar to those employed in all natural sciences. It is a fascinating study that ranges from microscopic cellular molecules to the multicellular macro forms of life, encompassing the earth's surface and its living organisms. 

The article examines the characteristics of living things which distinguish them from non-living things, plant and animal cells, cell division and the exchange of materials within a cell.

Science defines the difference between living and non-living things using seven basic characteristics.

For something to be considered living, it must display every one of the seven traits. The core building blocks of all things, atoms, are present even in non-living objects, but there exist seven traits that are exclusive to living things, including all plant life.

Characteristics of Living Things and Non-living Things

Characteristics of Living Things and Non-living Things

Living things

Living things have life, though some might not show its evident signs. For instance, a tree would probably not react the same way a human would. It would not react when we hit it, and it might not be able to walk around. 

Though the signs of life displayed by them are not very observable, it does not make them non-living.

Living things exist and are alive and are made of microscopic structures called cells. They grow and exhibit movement or locomotion. They experience metabolism, which includes anabolic and catabolic reactions.

Living things are capable of producing a new life which is of their own kind through the process of reproduction. 

Living things have a particular life span and are not immortal.

Cellular Respiration enables living organisms to acquire energy which is used by cells to perform their functions. They digest food for energy and also excrete waste from the body.

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Characteristics of Living Things

Living things can be distinguished from non-living things by a number of characteristics.

1. Movement: All living things move. Movement means a change in position which could be total one location to another) as in the case of animals or limited to one part of the body as in plant.

2. Nutrition: A Living organism needs food to supply the energy and materials for life processes. Nutrition involves the total process of taking in, and the utilization of foods in animals; as well as taking in of mineral substances and their utilization in plants.

3. Respiration: This is the breakdown of food substances taken in by the organism to release energy.

4. Irritability (Sensitivity): This is the ability of a living organism to receive an external stimulus and respond to it.

5. Excretion: This is the removal of waste products of metabolism from ‘the body of a living organism.

6. Reproduction: This is the process of giving rise to new individuals of the same kind for the continuation of life. Reproduction may be sexual or asexual in nature.

7. Growth: A living organism grows. This is an increase in size which is usually accompanied by development (a change in form and abilities). The materials used for growler derived from the food taken in by the organism.

8. Adaptation: This is the possession of features (structures or functions) which enable organisms to live successfully and to survive in their respective environments.

Their life cycle can be summarized as follows – birth, growth, reproduction and death.

Examples of living things are animals, birds, insects, human beings.


Non - Living things

Non-living things are not alive. They do not possess life. They do not have cells and do not grow or show locomotion/movement. They do not undergo metabolism with anabolic and catabolic reactions. They do not reproduce.

Non-living things do not have a life span. They do not respire as they do not require food for energy and hence do not excrete. 

They do not fall into any cycle of birth, growth or death. They are created and destroyed by external forces.

Examples of non-living things include stone, pen, book, cycle, bottle, etc.

Characteristics of Non-living Things

The important characteristics of non-living things are mentioned below:

1.  Non-living things are lifeless. They do not have cells, and there is no protoplasm which forms the basis for life to exist.

2.  Lack of protoplasm leads means no metabolic activities.

3.  They do not have a definite and certain size of their own. They take the shape of the substance they are contained in, for example, a liquid takes the shape of its container. Stones, rocks and boulders are moulded by the changing environment and landscape. The change in the state of a non-living thing is due to an external influence.

4.  Non-living things “grow” by accretion. It occurs through adding materials externally. 

For example, A snowball may increase in size due to the accumulation of smaller units of its own to its outer surface.

5.  Non-living things never die as they do not have cells with a definite lifespan. Immortality is a distinguishing factor.

6.  Fundamental life processes such as reproduction, nutrition, excretion, etc. are absent in non-living things.


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Difference between Living and Non-living things

Characteristics of Living Things and Non-living Things
Here are some of the major differences between living and non-living things:

1. Living things they possess life. Non-living things do not possess life.

2. Living things are capable of giving birth to their young one.

Non-living things do not reproduce.

3. For survival, living things depend on water, air and food.

Non-living things have no such requirements

4. Living things are sensitive and responsive to stimuli. Non-living things are not sensitive and do not respond to stimuli.

5. Metabolic reactions constantly occur in all living things. There are no metabolic reactions in Non-living things.

6. Living organisms undergo growth and development. Non-living things do not grow or develop.

7. Living things move from one place to another. Non-living things cannot move by themselves.

8. Living things respire and exchange of gases takes place in their cells. Non-living things do not respire.

9. Living things Example are Humans, animals, plants, insects etc.  Non-living things Example are Rock, pen, buildings, gadgets.

10. living things have a lifespan and are not immortal. Non-living things have no lifespan and are immortal.


Criteria for Differentiating Living things from Non-living things

For easy differentiation between living things and non-living things, scientists have come up with traits or characteristics that are unique to them.

The criterion for classification is necessary to avoid the wrong grouping.

Hence, science developed a basis for classification. Anything that has life is considered as living beings. For example humans, trees, dogs, etc.

Things which have no life in it are considered as non-living.

For example stone, mountain, watch, etc.

Scientists have discovered a few criteria for differentiating living things from non-living things.

Below are some of them:

·  Living beings can grow and develop.

·  Living beings obtain and use energy.

·  Living beings adapt to their environment.

·  All living beings are made of one or more cells.

·  Living beings respond to their environment or stimuli.

·  All living things excrete to remove waste material from the body.

·  Living beings have the ability to give birth to their young ones through the process of reproduction.

·  All living beings require energy to perform different metabolic activities, and they gain energy from food/ nutrition.

·  All living beings, apart from plants, move from one place to another. This type of movement is called locomotion.

·  All living beings, including humans, animals, plants,  birds, and insects, require oxygen gas to breath and produce energy.

If something obeys a few of the rules, it cannot be categorized as a living thing. 

It has to follow all the given rules stringently. For example, an icicle, although it grows (increase its mass or length), is still a non-living thing since it cannot reproduce, or respond to stimuli.

Non-living things do not have any of the life processes, unlike living beings.

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