MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: If a living being is not a plant or an animal, what is it?

Date: Mon Mar 5 07:54:55 2001
Posted By: Yvonne A. Simpson, Grad student, Pathology, Edinburgh University
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 983339993.Gb

Dear Daniel, 
That is a very good question.  I think that the best way to answer it is to 
think about how organisms are classified as being animal or plant.  
Scientists like to put things into neat little boxes, discreet groups, such 
as being animals or plants.  Most of the time this works very well but, as 
you say yourself, sometimes things do not fit into these categories.  There 
are even arguments in science about how to classify things as living or 
not.  Viruses are like living things in some ways because they reproduce 
but they can also be like chemicals, crystallizing.  Many tiny types of 
organisms such as plankton move around like animals but can photosynthesize 
like plants.  My answer to what is something that is neither a plant nor an 
animal is that it is probably both and that there is a gradient between 
these two extremes.  Being a plant is at one end and being an animal is at 
the other end but it is possible to be somewhere in between both.  I hope 
that this answers your question.  
Thanks for a very good question, 

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