Living things and non-living things coexists in the ecosystem, but biologically they have characteristics that differentiate them. Typically, living things have eight characteristics that are associated with life and non-living things do not have these characteristics(Kadhila, 2014). The eight characteristics associated with living organism are:
- All living things maintain homeostasis: This is the mechanism that allows living organism to maintain their internal environment stable. For example, mammals regulate their body temperature through shiver and sweat(Kadhila, 2014). Whereas plants control the water lose through stomata. In addition, human beings develops fever to break down bacteria and virus, thus reducing infection. This characteristic is not found in non-living things because they are dead.
- Living things have the ability to respond to a stimulus: This is the mechanism of all living to react to stimulus. For example, when a prey (zebra) sees a predator (lion) approaching or hears alarming sound from other living organism such as birds and baboons they stay alert or even run for their safety. Similarly, humans are able to respond to pain by pulling back their hands when they touch sharp or hot objects. Cheetah responds to hunger by stocking and chasing the gazelle. This characteristic is unique to living things and not non-living things.
- Living things obtains and uses energy: Living thing are categorized into heterotroph which obtain energy by feeding on other organism and autotroph which are the organism that traps energy from the sun to manufacture their own food through photosynthesis. For example, plants traps energy from the sun to manufacture their own food through photosynthesis. Whereas leech suck blood from other organism in order to get energy. Non-living things to do obtain and uses energy.
- Living things are made up of cell(s): Cell is the smallest unit of organism. Unicellular organism are those living things that are composed of one cell such as bacteria whereas multicellular organism that are composed of more than one cell such as plants, animals and human.
- All things grow and develop: Growth in living organism is characterized by increase in mass, formation of new cells and structures. Whereas development is a process of natural change in a living thing. For example, living things develop structures and processes that allow for reproduction to occur.
- Living things reproduce: Living things are categorized into two asexual and sexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction process requires one organism whereas sexual reproduction requires the union of male and female sex cells(Kadhila, 2014). For example, bacteria split into two to reproduce whereas mammals requires union of sperm from a male and egg from a female to reproduce. This characteristics is not associated with non-living things.
- The structure of all living things are based upon a universal genetic code (DNA): DNA is described as a central point that gives genetic instruction for development and functioning of all living organism. For example, starfish has 36 total chromosomes in their cells, turkey have 80 chromosomes in their cells and humans have 46 total chromosomes in their cells.
- Living things evolves over time and adapts: Adaptations is described as mechanism for an organism to develop over time and respond to a changing environmental factors, thus helping the organism to survive. Whereas evolution is described as changes in heredity of groups of organisms over time. These eight characteristic are unique to living organism and non-living things do not have these characteristics.