LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Identify the characteristics of living matter.
All living things, animals and plants, are organisms that undergo chemical processes by which they sustain life and regenerate cells. The difference between animals and plants is that animals have sensations and the power of voluntary movement, and they require oxygen and organic food. On the other hand, plants require only carbon dioxide and inorganic matter for food and have neither voluntary movement nor special sensory organs.
In man, some of the characteristic functions necessary for survival include digestion, metabolism, and homeostasis. Digestion involves the physical and chemical breakdown of the food we eat into its simplest forms. Metabolism is the process of absorption, storage, and use of these foods for body growth, maintenance, and repair. Homeostasis is the body's self-regulated control of its internal environment. It allows the organism to maintain a state of constancy or equilibrium, in spite of vast changes in the external environment.