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Living Organisms Basic Needs & Survival

Marian Fuchs, Elizabeth Friedl
  • Author
    Marian Fuchs

    Marian has a Bachelors degree in biology/chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She has 4 years of experience teaching biology, geology, and ecology, and English language to children ranging from kindergarten to high school seniors, as well as experience caring for and training marine mammals.

  • Instructor
    Elizabeth Friedl

    Elizabeth, a Licensed Massage Therapist, has a Master's in Zoology from North Carolina State, one in GIS from Florida State University, and a Bachelor's in Biology from Eastern Michigan University. She has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Learn about the basic needs of living things that are required for survival. Discover the importance of sunlight, water, food, air, and a hospitable environment. Updated: 08/09/2022

Table of Contents


What are Living Organisms?

Living organisms are considered to be anything that shows the characteristics of being alive. These characteristics include having a specific structure, requiring energy, adapting to changes in the environment, responding to different stimuli, can die, can reproduce, and are capable of metabolism, growth, and movement. There are three Domains (categories of living things): Eubacteria, Archaea, and Eucarya.

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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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What Do Living Things Need to Survive?

There are five basic needs of living things. So, what do all living things need? Sunlight, water, air, habitat, and food are the basic needs of all living things. Without one or more of these living things will not be able to survive. These needs also extend to humans; without these five essential resources, we would perish. What makes sunlight, water, air, habitat, and food so important for living things?


Sunlight is one of the most important needs of living things. It provides energy for living organisms such as plants and warms the Earth's surface so that it is hospitable for the living organisms living there. Plants require sunlight to create energy through photosynthesis which converts sunlight into chemical energy. Plants are living organisms that provide a food source for many other living organisms. Some living organisms such as mammals and birds can maintain their own body temperatures, but others, such as reptiles, require sunlight to keep themselves functioning. The amount of sunlight that is needed for survival differs between species. Some living organisms require a lot of light, while others require almost none. So, do all living organisms need sunlight? The short answer is yes. Not all living organisms need sunlight as a food source, but they require it for its warmth.

The process of photosynthesis requires sunlight.

diagram showing photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide enters the plant along with water. Oxygen is then released.


For cells to function correctly, water is required. All living things rely on properly functioning cells for survival. Some living organisms, such as fish and whales, spend their entire lives in the water. No matter where living organisms live, they require water to survive. Seventy percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water, but that doesn't mean water is always easily accessible. Some living organisms have had to adapt to environments with little water, such as deserts.

Plants do not have mouths that they use to consume water; instead, they absorb water through their leaves and roots. A lack of water will result in the wilting of the plant and its eventual death. A turgid plant is a plant that is upright and rigid, showing that it has had enough water. Along with plants, living organisms such as bacteria also require water to transport energy/nutrients to cells.


Air is composed of several different gases. Most living organisms use air for respiration is composed of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Some living organisms, like humans, require oxygen for survival, and plants use carbon dioxide for respiration and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. Even living organisms that live in the water require air.

Air can also be found in surprising places, such as soil. In the soil, it aids in the process of breaking down dead organisms into organic material; this is known as decomposition. Living organisms that break down these dead organisms into reusable organic material are decomposers. Decomposers are large contributors to the health of the soil by supplying nutrients, making it a healthy place for plants to live and grow.

Along with sunlight, air helps to provide the Earth with warmth, and the atmosphere acts like a greenhouse. The atmosphere is composed of air and helps to trap the heat from the sun next to the Earth's surface. The Earth needs to be kept warm for living organisms to survive, but it could cause damage if it becomes too warm.

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