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Living Organisms: Basic Needs

Living Organisms: Basic Needs
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  • 0:41 Sunlight
  • 1:31 Water
  • 2:40 Air
  • 3:49 Habitat
  • 5:11 Food
  • 6:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

There are many types of living organisms on Earth. But what makes us all the same is our basic needs for survival, which is a shorter list than you might think!

Living Things Have Needs

Let's do a little activity. Take a minute and think about all the things that you think you 'need.' You might come up with things like a home to live in, a car to get you to school, your friends and family, and maybe even a clean change of clothes every day.

Humans have a lot of things they consider to be 'needs,' but in reality, when it comes to basic survival, there are only a few items that all living things have to have. And because we're living things, this includes us! Let's take a look at the five basic needs of living things to better understand what keeps us all alive and well. These are sunlight, water, air, habitat, and food.

Sunlight

The first and probably most important need for all living things is sunlight. Why so important? Well, sunlight provides a source of energy and heats the earth to a hospitable temperature. It also provides a food source for plants, which, in turn, feed many other living organisms.

While the sun keeps the entire planet warm enough to sustain life, the amount of sunlight a location on Earth receives influences which living organisms can survive there. While all plants need light for photosynthesis, or the process of converting sunlight into chemical energy, some plants need less light while others need more of it. Additionally, some animals, like mammals and birds, regulate their body temperature internally, while others, like reptiles, need the sunlight to keep them warm.

Water

Next up is water. Every living thing needs water in order for proper cellular functionality. Luckily for us, our planet is covered in the stuff - about 70% of Earth's surface, in fact!

The water you drink helps your cells perform some very important jobs, like digestion, metabolism, cell repair, and more. Some animals, like fish, even live in the water and breathe in the oxygen it contains. Some animals only use water to lay eggs in, some only use it for certain life stages (think of tadpoles that later become frogs and toads!).

Plants don't have mouths to 'drink' water like animals, but they can take in water through their leaves and roots. If you've ever forgotten to water your houseplants for a while, you probably noticed how wilted and sad they looked. This is because water helps plants stay turgid, or upright and rigid.

Even living things as small as bacteria need water for cellular processes like transporting nutrients into the cell. Bacteria also need water to grow, and while some bacteria can survive in drier conditions, others depend on water and quickly die without it!

Air

Remember how some organisms like fish breathe the oxygen in the water? Well, we breathe oxygen too, but we breathe it from the air, which is the next basic need of all living things. Air doesn't just contain oxygen though - air is comprised of many different gases that support life. For example, we breathe the oxygen in air, but plants breathe in air's carbon dioxide component.

You may have been surprised to learn that there is air in water, but air is also hidden in many places you might not expect. For example, air can be found in soil. This air allows for decomposers, or organisms that break down dead material, to take old material from dead organisms and turn it into new organic material that can be re-used.

Air also helps keep the planet warm. This is because the atmosphere, which is made of air, traps heat on Earth, much like a greenhouse keeps the sun's warmth trapped inside its walls. This is a good thing to a certain extent. We need the earth to be warm enough to live on, but if too much warmth gets trapped under the atmosphere, we may run into some problems.

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