Characteristics of Living Organisms - Life Traits - Embibe
  • Written By nikhil
  • Last Modified 01-07-2022
  • Written By nikhil
  • Last Modified 01-07-2022

Characteristics of Living Organisms

We exist on a planet called Earth, which supports life. The Science that is behind the study of life is called Biology. There is no concrete definition for the term ‘life’. Philosophy and Science, both have their own versions for this term. From a biological perspective, the term life is explained as a system that is able to perform a list of functions, such as eating/procuring nutrition, digesting/assimilating the procured food/sustenance, breathing, excreting, reproducing, growing, and so on. These are the characteristics of living organisms.

From the dawn of the age of knowledge, when mankind started thinking and applying logic to everything, the meaning and essence of life have always posed to be a challenging notion. In this article, we will help you understand the different characteristics of living organisms and how these characteristics define an organism to be considered as being alive. Keep reading to know more.

What Are the Characteristics of Living Organisms?

The entire spectrum of living organisms, no matter how small or how large, happen to share amongst them, a certain set of biological traits or characteristic properties that separate them from all the inanimate objects in the world. When all these characteristic properties or biological traits are taken into account, all together, they act as norms to classify something as having a life or being alive.

Let us take a closer look at all the different types of biological traits or characteristic properties that an organism must display or possess, in order to be deemed as having a life or being alive.


Living organisms are a well-organised system. They have internal and external structures having complex coordination at a biological level. The most basic single-celled organisms also have a complex biological system that executes different processes to support life. Each cell is composed of atoms that make up the molecular structure of the organism. These cells when grouped together and make up the tissue system. Tissues make up the organs of the body. The organs grouped together, make up the organ system of the organism. 


All living organisms take in products or materials that are termed as food, nutrition, sustenance, etc, from their surroundings. These materials are used to produce energy inside the body that is required to stay alive and carry out other biological functions. The term nutrition can be explained as the process through which living organisms procure or ingest raw materials and energy from their surroundings in the form of nutrients that are further classified as carbohydrates, fats, and protein.


There is more to the process of respiration than just breathing oxygen-rich air into the body. It is the capacity of a living organism to break down the energy procured and feed it to all the cells in the body. Respiration is basically the release of energy from the nutrients ingested by the organism, to provide energy to all the cells. Only living organisms can break down food into energy via the process of respiration. 

In this process, the oxygen is used to break down the food into complex smaller entities, that are absorbed by the individual cells in the body. The byproduct of this process is carbon dioxide, which is released from the body. The process of respiration differs from organism to organism.


All living organisms exhibit movement in some form or the other. Only inanimate objects cannot perform any kind of movement on their own. These movements in organisms can either be fast enough to be easily distinguishable by the human eye or so slow that even a high-power microscope would be unable to detect them.

Human beings, animals, and insects exhibit movement in a very obvious manner. However, plants exhibit movement by growing or positioning themselves closer to the path of the rays of the Sun. Even microorganisms display movement that can be captured using high-power microscopic instruments.


All living organisms perform the action of excretion. All the chemical reactions and biological processes that take place within the body of the organism, lead to the process of excretion. The food consumed by the organism is broken down into smaller components by the process of digestion, and the energy released by this process uses oxygen to supply fuel to all the cells in the body via respiration. This cycle ends up in the process of excretion, where the byproducts and the undigested waste components need to be expelled from the body of the organism. This process is required to get all the harmful and toxic wastes out of the body.


All living organisms exhibit growth. It is a process that increases the size of the organism over time with the constant supply of food and the successful execution of all the biological processes within. This process promotes the growth of new cells, which leads to more tissue development that in turn leads to the physical growth of the living organism. The genetic coding of a particular organism provides the instructions mapped in by Mother Nature, to lead the growth of the organism in an organised manner. These genetic instructions specify the size, shape, and other physical attributes of the organism. 


Reproduction is a biological process through which new organisms, also called offspring, are developed from their parental organisms. Reproduction is a fundamental characteristic of all living organisms. Every living organism is alive as a result of this process. There are two types of reproduction, asexual and sexual. Inanimate objects cannot reproduce. Single-celled organisms reproduce by splitting themselves into two organisms of the same kind. 

We hope that this detailed article on the characteristics of living organisms has proven to be helpful to you and provided valuable insight into this topic. Please remember that understanding the basic concepts and principles behind any topic or process is the key to mastering any chapter or subject.

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