Characteristics of Life

Published on Oct 26, 2017
Amoeba Sisters

Characteristics of Life

Life is difficult to define, but there are characteristics of life that can be explored! Join the Amoeba Sisters as they explore several characteristics of life. Click "show more" to expand video details to see table of contents & additional information. 👇

We chose not to give a numerical value for how many characteristics of life there are, because we do not want to imply that what we are listing must be a specific order, or that it cannot be expanded upon or include exceptions. Additionally, characteristics can also certainly be titled differently. Our goal is to promote thought and discussion about what it means for an organism to be alive as well as provide characteristics of life that can be explored when trying to study living things.

Organization (all life is composed of 1 or more cells) 2:20
Homeostasis 2:54
Metabolism (including need to obtain+use energy) 3:35
Reproduction 4:22
Growth and Development 4:46
Response to Stimuli 5:10
Evolution (occurs in populations, can lead to adaptation) 5:58

While living organisms tend to have ALL of the above characteristics, there are exceptions (such as the 'zonkey' mentioned in video at 6:55).

*Quote Citation:
Mullen, Leslie. (2013, August 1). Defining Life: Q&A with Scientist Gerald Joyce.

[Added 7/12/2018: NASA also uses this quote as a working definition of life. You can learn more here:]

A recommended reference is the FREE, peer reviewed, open source OpenStax biology textbook:
OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX.
You will notice that this source includes some additional life characteristics beyond our video to consider as well.

Recommended for Further Reading (and thought provoking!):

We have videos on many of the characteristics mentioned in this video. Check out our full, often updating biology playlist:

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The Amoeba Sisters videos demystify science with humor and relevance. The videos center on Pinky's certification and experience in teaching science at the high school level. Pinky's teacher certification is in grades 4-8 science and 8-12 composite science (encompassing biology, chemistry, and physics). Amoeba Sisters videos only cover concepts that Pinky is certified to teach, and they focus on her specialty: secondary life science. For more information about The Amoeba Sisters, visit:

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