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the scientific study of life


the entire portion of Earth inhabited by life; the sum of all the planet's ecosystems


all the organisms in a given area, along with the nonliving (abiotic) factors with which they interact; a biological community and its physical environment


an assemblage of all the organisms living together and potentially interacting in a particular area


a group of individuals belonging to one species and living in the same geographic area


an individual living thing, such as bacterium, fungus, protist, plant, or animal

organ system

a group of organs that work together in performing vital body functions


a specialized structure composed of several different types of tissues that together perform specific functions


an integrated group of cells with a common function, structure, or both


a basic unit of living matter separated from its environment by a plasma membrane; the fundamental structural unit of life


a membrane-enclosed structure with a specialized function within a cell


two or more atoms held together by covalent bonds

emergent properties

new properties that arise with each step upward in the hierarchy of life, owing to the arrangement and interactions of parts as complexity increases

prokaryotic cell

a type of cell lacking a membrane-enclosed nucleus and other membrane-enclosed organelles; found only in the domains Bacteria and Archaea

eukaryotic cell

a type of cell that has a membrane that has a membrane-enclosed nucleus and other membrane-enclosed organelles. All organisms are except bacteria and archaea are composed of eukaryotic cells

system biology

an approach to studying biology that aims to model the dynamic behavior of whole biological systems based on a study of the interactions among the system's parts.


a discrete unit of hereditary information consisting of a specific nucleotide sequence in DNA (or RNA, in some viruses). Most of the genes of a eukaryote are located in its chromosomal DNA; a few are carried by the DNA of mitochondria and chloroplasts


a taxonomic category above the kingdom level. The three domains of life are Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya


one of two prokaryotic domains of life, the other being Archaea


one of two prokaryotic domains of life, the other being Bacteria


domain of life that includes all eukaryotes


descent with modification; the idea that living species are descendants of ancestral species that were different from present-day ones; also, the genetic changes in a population from generation to generation

natural selection

a process in which individuals with certain inherited traits are more likely to survive and reproduce than are individuals that do not have those traits

inductive reasoning

a type of logic in which generalizations are based on a large number of specific observations


a testable explanation for a set of observations based on the available data and guided by inductive reasoning

deductive reasoning

a type of logic in which specific results are predicted from a general premise


a widely accepted explanatory idea that is broader in scope than a hypothesis, generates new hypotheses, and is supported by a large body of evidence

controlled experiment

an experiment in which an experimental group is compared with a control group that varies only in the factor being tested


the application of scientific knowledge for a specific purpose, often involving industry or commerce but also including uses in basic research

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