Living matter: concept, characteristics and examples

This matter takes part in the vital processes, such as the respiration, the feeding, the growth and the multiplication. Likewise, it participates in the control of the basic chemical changes that occur in the biosphere, and its role in the gaseous composition of the atmosphere should be emphasized .

Living matter is made up of living beings

Living matter is schematically made up of autotrophic organisms , capable of obtaining their own food, such as plants . It is also made up of heterotrophic organisms , which feed on other living beings, such as animals.

A third group is made up of mixotrophic organisms, which can have characteristics of both previous types. Although the phenomenon of life does not have a physicochemical explanation, attempts have been made to define life in different ways.

Characteristics of living matter

Living matter has a set of characteristics that are its own. But not all of them are exclusive, and numerous exceptions can be found in them. Among these characteristics we can describe the following:


Although slow, slugs are bursting with life. Source: Guillaume Brocker / CC BY-SA (

Living matter, in general, has the ability to move using different forms of locomotion, starting with less developed species, such as bacteria, which move using locomotion mechanisms based on their flagella.

Meanwhile, the more evolved species, such as vertebrates , can use various forms of locomotion. These depend on the environment in which they move, whether aquatic, air or land.

Plants seem to be an exception, as no movement is observed in them. However, inside the plants there is a set of movements that are not perceptible from the outside, such as the absorption of nutrients, respiration, the movement of sage, etc.

Living matter is immersed in a changing environment, in which changes in temperature, light intensity, pH, and chemical composition occur. Therefore, it is capable of detecting these changes and giving a response that allows adaptation to the new existing conditions.


Fungi are also living matter

Living matter develops mechanisms that allow it to capture oxygen, which it needs to generate energy. Likewise, it needs mechanisms to expel the produced carbon dioxide gas.

In animals, this function is fulfilled by the respiratory and circulatory systems, where the lungs play a central role.


Living matter is capable of experiencing an increase in its size and mass that can be more noticeable in certain periods of the life of animals, such as infancy. The different tissues that make up the body incorporate nutrients that allow it to function and increase its mass.


Red eyed frog

This characteristic can have different modalities, depending on the degree of complexity and evolution of the species. But in all species it is intended to transmit genetic information to offspring, which allows their survival and prevents the species from becoming extinct.

Bacteria reproduce by spores or budding and by binary fission. Meanwhile, the most evolved species can reproduce asexually or sexually, using in the latter the generation of male and female gametes, provided by the parents.


The living material during the processing of the raw material that it internalizes (metabolism), can produce substances that are toxic and therefore must be excreted. In mammals, this function is fulfilled by the lungs and kidneys.


Living matter, like this squirrel, needs to eat to acquire essential nutrients for its body. Source: Pixabay.

Living matter needs for the fulfillment of its various functions to produce or ingest the substances it requires for its subsistence.

There are species that are capable of producing their metabolic requirements, for example, plants (autotrophs). Other forms of matter are not capable of producing their nutritional requirements and they acquire it by consuming other species (heterotrophs).

Concentration of elements

Living matter is capable of concentrating in them elements of low atomic weight , such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, potassium and iodine. This determines a lack of uniformity in the distribution of these elements in the biosphere.


The morphology or shape of living matter is not fixed. It can undergo changes that occur over millions of years, which generate new morphological characteristics of organisms, the product of mutations or changes that the genetic material undergoes.

Examples of living matter

Plants are living matter. Ophrys apifera

Living matter is made up of numerous groups of organisms, for which only some of them will be named for illustrative purposes.

– Prokaryotes

They are unicellular organisms that lack a well-defined nucleus and possess a cell wall. It consists of two groups of organisms: bacteria and archaea.



Among these types of bacteria, there are two disease-causing genera: Staphylococcus and Streptococcus.


Escherichia coli and Clostridium botulinum.


Vibrio cholerae


Staphylothermus hellenicus

– Eukaryotes

They are organisms that have a nucleus delimited by a membrane. It is made up of three kingdoms: Plantae (plants), Animalia (plants) and Fungi (fungi). In addition, a fourth kingdom is added: the Protista, formed by a group of eukaryotic organisms whose characteristics do not fit in the three previous kingdoms.

Kingdom Plantae

It is made up of two groups of organisms: vascular plants or tracheophytes, and non-vascular plants or talophytes.

Vascular plants



They are classified into gymnosperms and angiosperms. These correspond for example to pine, fir, for gymnosperms; and legumes, cereals, mango, pineapple, papaya, etc., for angiosperms.

Non-vascular or talophytic plants




Animalia Kingdom

It is made up of two groups of organisms: vertebrates with a backbone, and invertebrates that lack it.


They belong to this group of organisms: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.


The bear, the rabbit, the tiger, the monkeys, the man, the platypus; although the latter is born from an egg.


The pigeon, the hen, the turkey, the ostrich, etc.


Snakes, crocodile, turtles, Komodo dragon, etc.


Frogs and Toads.


Tuna, cod, salmon.


Among the groups of organisms that are part of invertebrates are the following:


Arachnids such as the tarantula and the scabies ripper. Insects like the fly and the butterfly. Crustaceans and Centipedes (Myriapods).




The octopus and the squid.


The starfish and the sea urchin.

Protist kingdom

Red algae or rhinophytes and Plasmodium caudatum.

Funji kingdom (mushrooms)

Mushrooms, yeasts and molds

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