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Topic last updated: 01 Dec 2021
    • Ico Science Science
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Classification of living organisms

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Features of living things

An organism is any living thing, from the littlest ant to the massive blue whale. Animals are organisms, but so are plants and mushrooms.

Many organisms are so small that you can only see them with a microscope. These tiny creatures are called microorganisms. Living organisms can be found all over the world including land, water and air.

Some organisms look alike, but others are very different from one another. Scientists study these similarities and differences to classify living organisms based on their common features.

The basic characteristics of living organisms are:


APPEARANCE – What do they look like?
Example: All birds have wings, most mammals have four legs, and most fishes have fins.


NUTRITION – What do they eat?
Example: Plants make their own food using sunlight. Some animals eat plants, while others eat meat.

Three dots separated by arrows

MOVEMENT – How do they move?
Example: Unlike animals, plants cannot move around but they move very slowly when they grow.

Empty battery

ENERGY – How do they get energy?
Example: Animals get energy from the food they eat. Plants get energy from sunlight.

Toilet roll

EXCRETION – What do they release?
Example: Humans urinate after drinking and eating, and they sweat when they exercise.

Young plant in soil

GROWTH – How do they change over time?
Example: Caterpillars become chrysalises before they change into butterflies.

Male and female symbols

REPRODUCTION – How do they have their young?
Example: Chicken lay eggs and humans have their young inside their body before giving birth.

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SENSES – How do they sense and interact with their surroundings?
Example: Humans can see, hear, smell, taste and touch other things around them.