CTYOnline Life Science

Lesson 1.1 - What is Life?
Living things differ greatly. So, how exactly can you determine if something is alive? This question puzzled
scientists for years. Eventually, they realized that all living things have six characteristics. You will explore each
characteristic required for life. To begin, click on the tile labeled "one or more cells."

All living things are made of one or more cells. Cells are tiny self-contained units that enclose the materials
necessary for life. These materials are kept inside the cell by a barrier, or membrane. Take some time to see for
yourself that cells are present in living things. Simply drag the microscope over each highlighted thing to see that
it is made of cells.

You just saw examples of a few types of cells in living organisms. Do you think dead things also have cells? Use
the microscope to take a look at the cut wood to see if it has cells. As you can see, the answer is yes! Since dead
things were once living, they do have cells. However, dead things lack other characteristics necessary for life. You
will learn about these other characteristics shortly. Now take a moment to look at things that have never been
alive. Viewing these items under a microscope shows that they are not made of cells.

Even though all living things are made up of cells, all cells are not the same. Cells vary in size. Some cells are
extremely large, such as the yolk of this ostrich egg or these salmon eggs. They are very unusual because they
are much larger than most cells and can easily be seen without a microscope. However, most cells are extremely
small and can't be seen with the unaided eye. You may have already realized this when you saw cells through a
microscope. In fact, some cells are so tiny that several hundred of them can fit on the tip of a pin.
Did you notice earlier that cell shapes vary? Click on the pictures of the different cell types on your screen to learn
more about each type.
Some bacterial cells are round or oblong. Animal cells can vary greatly in shape. Some plant cells are
rectangular. An amoeba is actually made up of a single cell that constantly changes shape.

You've learned that a cell is the smallest unit that contains all of the materials necessary for life. This means some
things can be considered living if they are made of just one cell. The general term for a living thing is "organism."

A single-celled organism is often called a "unicellular organism." "Uni-" means "one." The amoeba you saw in the
previous scene is unicellular. So are bacteria. You can't see them, but unicellular organisms are found nearly
every place imaginable. They can be found in your body, on kitchen sponges, on the legs of flies, even deep in
the ocean. In fact, there are more unicellular organisms on Earth than organisms made of more than one cell.
Click on the dropper above the pond to see a few examples of the many unicellular organisms that can be found
in a pond. These organisms include bacteria and other unicellular organisms, such as amoebae, paramecia, and
Euglenas. You will learn about these organisms later in your biology studies.

Other living organisms can be made of hundreds, millions, or even trillions of cells. Large organisms tend to have
more cells than small organisms. You are made up of trillions of tiny cells. An organism made of more than one
cell is called a "multicellular organism." "Multi-" means "many." Similar to the way many single bricks make up a
large wall, multiple tiny cells act as the building blocks of multicellular organisms. From a distance, a brick wall
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SCENE 3-D Move your mouse over each object to see whether it is made of one cell. However. your body breaks down large substances in the apple to make smaller substances. cells in wood that has been cut don't carry out complex chemical activities. Click on the "Response to the Environment" tile to explore more. These bacterial cells also break down substances in their food sources. such as this rotting apple core. Sometimes a stimulus can cause different responses. when you see a multicellular organism. living cells use an information system to form structures and to function properly. Other organisms might respond differently. For example. maximizing their exposure to the sun. A cell's information system performs a number of jobs. which they eventually break down to produce their energy. plants use sunlight to change small substances into larger substances. they are not alive. However. All living organisms break down or build up substances. These small substances are often used to produce energy. click the continue button. such as food. One job is making substances called "proteins. Some of them move to face the sun throughout the day. For example. if a bright light shines on an earthworm." A reaction to a stimulus is called a "response. it appears to be one large unit. SCENE 4-A A second characteristic of all living things is they perform complex chemical activities to meet their energy needs. For instance. When you are finished. Some bacteria move toward light. light. Your body uses these smaller substances to produce energy. SCENE 5-A A third necessary characteristic for organisms to be considered living is that they are able to respond to their environment. sounds. For example. you see that it is made up hundreds or thousands of bricks. the light is the stimulus. SCENE 6-A The fourth required characteristic for life is an information system. chemicals." Metabolism helps living things meet their energy needs for growing and repairing damaged cells. You might not realize it. when you eat an apple. Together. and scents. When you get closer. Without an Page 2 of 4 . SCENE 5-C Click and drag the sun to different locations and observe what happens. into smaller substances. if you look at it under a microscope. Click on the "Complex Chemical Activities" tile to learn more. if you are too hot you might respond by moving away from the heat stimulus. Cells that don't metabolize are not alive. or is not made of cells. Click on the sunflower to explore its response to the sun as a stimulus. Other complex chemical activities involve building large substances from smaller substances. You might respond by moving toward the stimulus of heat if you are cold. Therefore. to make energy. All living organisms respond to stimuli. SCENE 5-B A signal from the environment that causes an organism to respond is called a "stimulus. and the worm's movement is the response." Stimuli can include such things as food sources. SCENE 4-B Some complex chemical activities in living things involve breaking down large substances." Proteins form many structures within an organism. In other words. Proteins are also responsible for many functions a cell performs. but plants also respond to stimuli. the worm will try to avoid the light by crawling towards a darker area. In this case. Similarly. Responses can include movement towards and away from a stimulus.appears as a solid unit. many cells. you'll see that it is made of cells. Click on the "Information System" tile to learn more. the break down and build up of substances in an organism are called "metabolism.

It starts as a small cluster of cells and develops into an adult. This hydra is a small animal that lives in lakes. Although changes in a multicellular organism's development are obvious. SCENE 8-D Some organisms. have information systems other than DNA." Bacteria reproduce asexually. or offspring. Likewise. accords can become oak trees. A unicellular organism grows by increasing the size of its cell through metabolism. SCENE 8-A The sixth and final characteristic of living things is the ability to create new versions of themselves. they undergo changes. SCENE 8-B As long as a type of organism has the ability to reproduce. sexual reproduction results in offspring that are similar but not identical to either parent. there are limits to the growth of both cells and organisms. such as legs and eyes. SCENE 8-C Many organisms. it wouldn't be able to carry out life's functions. This is known as "development. this accord could never become an oak tree. a puppy is smaller than its parents because the puppy has fewer cells than its parents. For example. In sexual reproduction. This is known as "reproduction.information system. There are two types of reproduction: asexual and sexual. That does not mean that they do not develop. For example. produce offspring through sexual reproduction. The information system in living cells is called "deoxyribonucleic acid. While asexual reproduction results in offspring that are identical to the parent. can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Why do you think this person is larger than the dogs? She is larger because people have more cells. Of course. you'll learn that if a cell grew too large. Multicellular organisms grow when the number of cells increases. changes in a unicellular organism are not. Later in your studies of biology. sunflowers. Some things. Without your information system. Watch how this amoeba grows as a result of breaking down food it eats." Click on the "Reproduction" tile to learn more. It produces offspring that are identical to itself when it reproduces. Their bones and muscles would not be able to support the weight. they are still alive because most dogs have the ability to reproduce. such as this spider plant. and humans. You can see that with all of the parts. In asexual reproduction. an organism becomes more complex. For example. some people's dogs don't have puppies. But these times are not alive because they lack other essential characteristics of living things. one parent organism makes babies. SCENE 7-A A fifth characteristic required for life is growth and development. it exhibits a sign of life. including dolphins. Click on the asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction labels beneath the spider plant to explore both types of reproduction. Unicellular organisms develop as they age and accumulate more contents. Some multicellular organisms also reproduce asexually. Development is a common feature of all organisms. For example. the adult has become more complex than the small cluster of cells." or DNA. An organism's information system also contains instructions for making new organisms. you would never have become a human being. Click on the "Growth and Deelopment" tile to learn more. The offspring are identical to the parent and are called "clones. However. Page 3 of 4 ." During development. you do't see any dog-sized bacteria. meaning that it gets larger. They split in half to make two new cells. not because their cells are larger. you don't expect to see ten-story-tall people. at some point in its life. SCENE 7-B Every living thing grows. two parents are necessary to produce offspring. Think about the changes that occur in a frog's life. such as computers and books. SCENE 7-C As organisms grow.

people thought that maggots. Page 4 of 4 . The second point is cells are the basic units of structure and function in living organisms. You also learned that the cell is the smallest unit capable of carrying out all of life's required functions." so this term means "life comes from life. You also learned that in sexual reproduction two parents create new life. Remember that biogenesis means life comes from other life. people thought frogs could arise from mud around ponds. Three points you have explored are grouped into an idea called "cell theory. the three points show the importance of cells to all living things. Three things always appeared in the observation of cells." SCENE 10-A You have learned six signs of life are exhibited by all living cells.SCENE 9-A You just learned that in asexual reproduction one parent creates new life. many people thought that life could arise from nonliving sources. However. could arise directly from meat. Flies need to lay eggs on the meat for maggots to appear. scientists often make a theory to describe what they see. Redi found that the meat in the covered jar did not produce maggots. After many years of observing cells. You learned their structural role when you saw cells acting as the building blocks in multicellular organisms." The prefix "bio-" means "life" and "genesis" means "origin. Prior to Redi's experiment. This last point stems from the theory of biogenesis. Use your mouse to drag the cover to one of the jars and observe the results. They also thought bees could arise from the dead body of a bull. SCENE 9-B In the past. For example. Redi placed meat in jars and covered some to keep out flies. a pattern became apparent. As you can see. SCENE 9-C An Italian scientist named Francesco Redi performed an experiment in the 1600s that shows organisms cannot arise from nonliving sources. When many observations turn out the same. The third point states all cells come from other cells." SCENE 10-B The first point of cell theory states that all living things are made of cells. The theory explaining cells in living organisms is known as "cell theory." The invention of the microscope allowed scientists to see cells. This experiment and others like it showed that all life comes from other life. What do both types of reproduction have in common? Both require living organisms to produce new life. taken together. This is a theory known as "biogenesis. The three points of cell theory cannot be used to determine if something is alive because the four other characteristics for life must be determined. which are immature flies.