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The Five Properties of Life

The Five Properties of Life

  1. Growth- Growth is defined as the irreversible development of an organism, whereby the organism increases in size and mass (Morrison 127). This increase is attributed to either an increase in the number of cells due to multiplication, an increase in cell size, or both processes. Notably, an increase in cell size is attributed to cell enlargement due to the rise in intracellular substances. Constant Growth at the cellular level then leads to the Growth of the whole organism, and it takes place over time, whereby an organism grows from a fertilized egg cell to a fully grown adult.
  2. Sense and respond to environmental stimulus- Living organisms are equipped with sensory receptors that collect stimuli from their surroundings, enabling them to react accordingly (Morrison 127). An example of a sense and response reaction is a human being coming into contact with the sharp end of an object. The body is equipped with sensory nerves all over the skin, which picks up the sensation of being stabbed and sends these signals to the brain, which then responds by producing the feeling of pain, and the person withdraws from the object. Non-living things do not have this quality, which means that in the same scenario, a non-living object would end up getting damaged by the sharp object.
  3. Maintain homeostasis- All living things have specific optimum internal conditions for their bodies to function effectively (Morrison 127). An adjustment to these conditions can cause damage to the components that are necessary to carry out these functions effectively. However, sometimes, the external conditions of a body can threaten these conditions, and the body needs an automated process to counter these effects. For example, the optimum body temperature for a human is 37º C; a drop or a rise in this temperature can be harmful if not regulated. Therefore, the body sweats and dilates the vessels to cool itself in high temperatures. In low temperatures, the body hair rises to trap air, and blood vessels constrict to prevent loss of body heat. These automated processes are known as homeostasis.
  4. Reproduce- Reproduction in biology is the process by which organisms produce new offspring (Morrison 127). There are two main forms of reproduction: sexual and asexual. Reproduction enables the continuity of the existence of a species.
  5. Obtain and use energy- This is also known as metabolism. Essentially, metabolism consists of a series of chemical reactions whose main role is sustaining Life (Morrison 127). Specific proteins control these chemical reactions, which then convert food into energy. Notably, some living organisms obtain food by producing it themselves, for example, plants by photosynthesis, while others, like animals, have to consume it. Living organisms require energy to function, and metabolism meets this energy need.

 A penguin:

  1. Growth- A penguin grows through five stages in the course of its lifespan. The first stage is egg, hatchling, chick, juvenile, and finally, an adult ( Clair, Colleen Cassady, and Mark S. Boyce 1691). By the time an egg is being laid, it has undergone multiple cell divisions, and keeping it warm helps the process of cell division continue. After being hatched, a penguin starts growing in size, undergoing the various stages highlighted above.
  2. Sense and respond to environmental stimulus- Penguins have a central nervous system that collects information from external and internal environments and enables the required responses. Notably, penguins are said to have a sense of taste.
  3. Maintain homeostasis- Penguins mainly live in extremely cold conditions, but they are able to maintain an optimum temperature of 38º C in their body. One way they regulate their temperature and stay warm in freezing conditions is by shivering, which helps generate additional heat.
  4. Reproduce- Penguins carry out sexual reproduction whereby the female goes into the gestation period and then lays an egg ( Clair, Colleen Cassady, and Mark S. Boyce 1691). The male penguin then takes over taking care of the egg till it hatches.
  5. Obtain and use energy- For a penguin to perform their daily activities, they obtain the energy needed from feeding on mainly small animals as they are carnivorous.

Would you consider this a living thing? Why or why not?

After carefully analyzing the five properties of the life of a penguin, I would consider it a living thing because it means all the qualifications of a living organism, as described in the first section.

A zebroid:

  1. Growth- A zebroid undergoes growth from the moment fertilization occurs, and cell division in meiosis and mitosis occurs. After birth, the animal continues to grow until it achieves maturity.
  2. Sense and respond to environmental stimulus- A zebroid has a central nervous system; therefore, it can sense and respond to different stimuli like pain, heat, and cold, among others.
  3. Maintain homeostasis- A zebroid maintains homeostasis in the body. It is only through homeostasis that it can temporarily sustain its body with energy when it has not eaten for a while and maintain optimum body temperature in both hot and cold weather.
  4. Reproduce- Zebroids cannot reproduce because they are a hybrid of zebras and other equine species, such as horses or donkeys. This means that they are sterile (Wiedner et al. E7)
  5. Obtain and use energy- To obtain energy for various activities, zebroids must feed mostly on plants. Without food, zebroids will only last a short time before the body reserves run out and the animal dies.

Would you consider this a living thing? Why or why not?

I would consider a zebroid a living thing because it has all the properties that qualify it to be alive, especially the self-regulating bodily functions that take place to maintain its life, as well as cell division.

Ice crystals:

  1. Growth- Ice crystals have the ability to grow or rather increase in size as it gets cold. However, this Growth is reversible.
  2. Sense and respond to environmental stimulus- Ice crystals cannot sense but can react to the environment; for example, they respond by melting in high temperatures.
  3. Maintain homeostasis- Ice crystals cannot maintain homeostasis. Ice crystals are a solid form of water with only two molecules: hydrogen and water. Homeostasis consists of complex molecules that ice does not have.
  4. Reproduce- Ice crystals cannot reproduce in any way. Ice crystals have no cells through which they can conduct any form of cell division to bring about the reproduction of new offspring.
  5. Obtain and use energy- Ice crystals do not require energy, so there is no need to obtain any of them.

Would you consider this a living thing? Why or why not?

I would not consider ice crystals living things because they lack the life-sustaining processes required to maintain life. Ice crystals also lack the chemical building blocks found in all living things.

An erupting volcano:

  1. Growth- An erupting volcano does grow in size because, with each new lava flow, the volcano continues to increase. Besides, volcanoes also tend to have a life span through which they undergo development before eruption (Lipman, Peter, and Andrew 1348).
  2. Sense and respond to environmental stimuli- An erupting volcano cannot sense environmental stimuli but react to them in various ways. In cold temperatures, the volcano solidifies to form solid rocks, while it maintains its molten form in hot temperatures.
  3. Maintain homeostasis- An erupting volcano cannot maintain homeostasis. A volcano erupts because the external environment, including high temperature and pressure, makes it so imbalanced that it eventually explodes.
  4. Reproduce- An erupting volcano cannot bring forth offspring as it cannot conduct either form of reproduction.
  5. Obtain and use energy- Metabolism cannot take place in an erupting volcano because it does not have the components, including specialized protein, required in the process. Besides, the energy that causes a volcano eruption is external.

Would you consider this a living thing? Why or why not?

I would not consider an erupting volcano a living thing because it barely meets the five properties required to consider something living. Notably, a volcano lacks basic life molecules like lipids and components like cells.

A volvox:

  1. Growth- Volvox can be unicellular and multicellular and grow through cell division or enlargement. However, these cell divisions are very complex, including coordinated tissue-level morphogenesis, asymmetric cell divisions, and complete germ–soma division of labor (Umen para. 1).
  2. Sense and respond to environmental stimuli- One example of how volvox sense and respond to environmental stimuli is through photo taxis, whereby they use their flagella to move towards light and away from the darkness to carry out photosynthesis.
  3. Maintain homeostasis- One way that Volvox maintains homeostasis is by excreting waste products. Excretion eliminates waste that is toxic to the organism if it builds up inside the body.
  4. Reproduce- Volvox carries out reproduction through both sexual and vegetative reproductive means (Umen para. 6).
  5. Obtain and use energy- Volvox is a form of green algae which means it has chlorophyll, and this way, it can make its own food by photosynthesis.

Would you consider this a living thing? Why or why not?

I would consider Volvox a living organism because it is made up of basic life molecules, including lipids, carbon, nucleic acids, and proteins.

Works Cited

Lipman, Peter W., and Andrew T. Calvert. “Modeling volcano growth on the Island of Hawaii: Deep-water perspectives.” Geosphere 9.5 (2013): 1348-1383.

Morrison, David A. “Understanding Evolution.—By Kostas Kampourakis.” (2015): 1121-1122.

St. Clair, Colleen Cassady, and Mark S. Boyce. “Icy insights from emperor penguins.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106.6 (2009): 1691-1692.

Umen, James G. “Volvox and volvocine green algae.” EvoDevo 11.1 (2020): 1-9.

Wiedner, Ellen B., William A. Lindsay, and Ramiro Isaza. “Management of zebras and zebra hybrids (zebroids).” Compend. Contin. Educ. Vet 34.9 (2012): E4.


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The Five Properties of Life

The Five Properties of Life

Book Link: Yuzu Reader: Scientific American Biology for a Changing World with Physiology

Book: Scientific American Biology for a Changing World with Physiology

Michele Shuster, Janet Vigna, Matthew Tontonoz

Turn in the sheet below with your answers. There will be a deduction of 5 pts if you do not turn in your answers on the sheet that is below. The sheet is available for you to download in this module.

Introduction: In Module 1, chapter 2, we discussed the five properties of life. They are Growth, reproduction, maintaining homeostasis, sensing and responding to environmental stimuli, and obtaining and using energy.

We also said that for you to be considered alive, you must have the 5 properties of life. We also said that there were a few exceptions to the rules. A few things in the world may have some of those qualities but are still considered NOT living. The example that we talked about in the lecture was fire; it grows, reproduces, and uses energy but is still not a living organism. There are a few things in the world that may be missing one or more properties of life and are still considered alive; an example is a mule. It can NOT reproduce but is still considered a living organism.

Instructions: In this exercise, you are given 5 things in the world. I would like for you to do research (use the internet, books, journals, etc), see which qualities of life they have, and give an example of how it does that property. For example, if it reproduces, then tell how it reproduces. Some examples of types of reproduction could be sexual reproduction, budding, binary fission, etc. If it does not have that property, then you will simply leave that part blank. Also note, if you would consider this a living or non-living thing and why?

Start by writing the definition for each property of life below, as stated in the textbook. The definition of each one will help you as you complete this exercise:

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