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Levels of organization of living things

Living things are highly organized and structured, following a hierarchy on a scale from small to large. The atom    is the smallest and most fundamental unit of matter. It consists of a nucleus surrounded by electrons. Atoms form molecules. A molecule    is a chemical structure consisting of at least two atoms held together by a chemical bond. Many molecules that are biologically important are macromolecules , large molecules that are typically formed by combining smaller units called monomers. An example of a macromolecule is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) ( [link] ), which contains the instructions for the functioning of the organism that contains it.

Molecular model depicts a DNA molecule, showing its double helix structure.
A molecule, like this large DNA molecule, is composed of atoms. (credit: "Brian0918"/Wikimedia Commons)

Concept in action

To see an animation of this DNA molecule, click here .

Some cells contain aggregates of macromolecules surrounded by membranes; these are called organelles . Organelles are small structures that exist within cells and perform specialized functions. All living things are made of cells; the cell    itself is the smallest fundamental unit of structure and function in living organisms. (This requirement is why viruses are not considered living: they are not made of cells. To make new viruses, they have to invade and hijack a living cell; only then can they obtain the materials they need to reproduce.) Some organisms consist of a single cell and others are multicellular. Cells are classified as prokaryotic or eukaryotic. Prokaryotes are single-celled organisms that lack organelles surrounded by a membrane and do not have nuclei surrounded by nuclear membranes; in contrast, the cells of eukaryotes do have membrane-bound organelles and nuclei.

In most multicellular organisms, cells combine to make tissues , which are groups of similar cells carrying out the same function. Organs are collections of tissues grouped together based on a common function. Organs are present not only in animals but also in plants. An organ system    is a higher level of organization that consists of functionally related organs. For example vertebrate animals have many organ systems, such as the circulatory system that transports blood throughout the body and to and from the lungs; it includes organs such as the heart and blood vessels. Organisms are individual living entities. For example, each tree in a forest is an organism. Single-celled prokaryotes and single-celled eukaryotes are also considered organisms and are typically referred to as microorganisms.

Art connection

A flow chart shows the hierarchy of living organisms. From smallest to largest, this hierarchy includes: 1 An atom, with protons, neutrons and electrons. 2 Molecules such as the phospholipid shown, made up of atoms. 3 Organelles, such as Golgi apparatus and nuclei, that exist inside cells. 4 Cells, such as a red blood cell. 5 Tissues, such as human skin tissue. 6 Organs such as the stomach and intestine make up the human digestive system, an example of an organ system. 7 Organisms, populations and communities. In a park, each person is an organism. Together, all the people make up a population. All the plant and animal species in the park comprise a community. 8 Ecosystems: The ecosystem of Central Park in New York includes living organisms and the environment in which they live. 9 The biosphere: encompasses all the ecosystems on Earth.
From an atom to the entire Earth, biology examines all aspects of life. (credit "molecule": modification of work by Jane Whitney; credit "organelles": modification of work by Louisa Howard; credit "cells": modification of work by Bruce Wetzel, Harry Schaefer, National Cancer Institute; credit "tissue": modification of work by "Kilbad"/Wikimedia Commons; credit "organs": modification of work by Mariana Ruiz Villareal, Joaquim Alves Gaspar; credit "organisms": modification of work by Peter Dutton; credit "ecosystem": modification of work by "gigi4791"/Flickr; credit "biosphere": modification of work by NASA)

Which of the following statements is false?

  1. Tissues exist within organs which exist within organ systems.
  2. Communities exist within populations which exist within ecosystems.
  3. Organelles exist within cells which exist within tissues.
  4. Communities exist within ecosystems which exist in the biosphere.

Questions & Answers

What are eukaryotic cells?
Nwosueke Reply
where does the cell get energy for active transport processes?
A'Kaysion Reply
what is synapsis
Adepoju Reply
how many turns are required to make a molecule of sucrose in Calvin cycle
Amina Reply
why Calvin cycle occurs in stroma
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide?
Maryam Reply
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide? For the purpose of breaking down the food
what is allele
uzoka Reply
process of protein synthesis
what is cell
Zulf Reply
what is cytoplasm
uzoka Reply
cytoplasm is fluid of cell.
how many major types of Cloning
Saeed Reply
comparative anatomy of gymnosperms?
Meenakshi Reply
anatomy of gymnosperms
how genes are regulated
Ainjue Reply
what is storage of glycogen
Student Reply
glycogen is a protein content
how many times breathing a day normally does a person have
Vernalyn Reply
on average 18000 times a day when resting.
the -10 and -35 regions of prokaryotic promoters are called consensus sequences because
Michelle Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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