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living things


Life on Earth

Earth is home to a variety of living things. It has a lot of biodiversity.

What is biodiversity

Biodiversity comes from two words Bio meaning life and diversity meaning variability.

Biodiversity is the variety of all living things; the different plants, animals and micro organisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form.

We need biodiversity for Earth the thrive, every living thing is important to the balance of life on Earth.

That we know of an estimate of around Eight million, seven hundred thousand species (give or take 1.3 million) call Earth home. A staggering 86% of all species on land and 91% of those in the seas have yet to be discovered, described and catalogued.

A world without diversity would be like reducing Harmony to a single beat. Together we are a symphony
— Inspired by Aristotle
© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

Life is all about interactions between biotic (living things) and abiotic (non living) factors.

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd


Living things such as; sharks, whales, phytoplankton

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd


Non living things; water, light, radiation, temperature, pH


All living organisms are classified based on basic, shared characteristics. Organisms within each group are then further divided into smaller groups. These smaller groups are based on more detailed similarities within each larger group. This grouping system makes it easier for scientists to study certain groups of organisms. Characteristics such as appearance, reproduction, mobility, and functionality are just a few ways in which living organisms are grouped together.

Taxonomists classify all organisms into a hierarchy, and give them standardised names, that are often Latin or Greek, or derived from other languages and even people's names.

These specialised groups are collectively called the classification of living things. There are seven main levels of classification in the hierarchy. They are, from the most to the least inclusive.

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

Kingdoms is the most basic classification of living things.

Currently there are five kingdoms-Animal, Plant, Fungi, Protist (A protist is any eukaryotic organism that is not an animal, plant or fungus) and Monera (unicellular). Living things are placed into certain kingdoms based on how they obtain their food, the types of cells that make up their body, and the number of cells they contain.

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

Phylum is the next level following kingdom in the classification of living things.

It is an attempt to find physical similarities among organisms within a kingdom. These physical similarities suggest that there is a common ancestry among those organisms in a particular phylum.

Classes are way to further divide organisms of a phylum.

Organisms of a class have even more in common than those in an entire phylum.

Order Organisms in each class are further broken down into orders.

A taxonomy key is used to determine to which order an organism belongs. A taxonomy key is a checklist of characteristics that determines how organisms are grouped together.

Families Orders are divided into families.

Organisms within a family have more in common than with organisms in any classification level above it. Because they share so much in common, organisms of a family are said to be related to each other.

Genus is a way to describe the generic name for an organism.

The genus classification is very specific so there are fewer organisms within each one. For this reason, there are a lot of different genera among both animals and plants. When using taxonomy to name an organism, the genus is used to determine the first part of its two-part name.

Species are as specific as you can get.

It is the lowest and most strict level of classification of living things. The main criteria for an organism to be placed in a particular species is the ability to breed with other organisms of that same species. The species of an organism determines the second part of its two-part name.

EXAMPLE - Let’s look at Marvel - My cat.



Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Carnivora

Family - Felidae

Genus - Felis

Species - Catus

Scientific Name: Felis Catus


Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum- Chordata

Class - Chondrichthyes

Subclass - elasmobranchii (Sound familiar)

Order - Carcharhiniformes

Family- Carcharhinidae

Genus - Galeocerdo

Species - Cuvier

Scientific Name: Galeocerdo Cuvier

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd


Can you find out the classification of one of your favourite animals? What is their scientific name?'

Animals (fauna)

Animals can be divided into groups or 'classified' by looking at the similarities and differences between them.

Animals are divided into two main groups.

  • Animals that have a backbone are called vertebrates. 

  • Animals that don't have a backbone are called invertebrates.

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© elasmo holdings pty ltd

Vertebrates and invertebrates are divided into smaller groups.

Vertebrates, for example, are divided into fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

There are many different groups of invertebrates too. They include invertebrates which have soft bodies such as jellyfish, worms and molluscs (like slugs and squids). There are also groups of invertebrates with hard bodies, such as insects, crustaceans and spiders.


Vertebrates are animals that have a backbone inside their body.

Vertebrate groups

The major groups include;

  • Fish

  • Amphibians

  • Reptiles

  • Birds

  • Mammals.


Can you give me an animal from of each group?


Invertebrates are animals that don't have a backbone.

There are so many invertebrates on this planet that it is impossible to count them all. They come in many shapes and sizes, live practically anywhere and provide many services that are vital for our survival.

Some have soft bodies, like worms, slugs and jellyfish.

Other invertebrates, like insects, spiders and crustaceans, have a hard outer casing called an exoskeleton. This protects their body a bit like a suit of armour.

Invertebrate groups

Terrestrial (land) invertebrates include the following groups, many of which also have members that live in freshwater or marine environments. Familiar examples of invertebrates include

Let’s play a game

Let’s see if we can correctly put the different animals into the correct group.

(Download ‘Vertebrate vs Invertebrate’ game from the elasmo google-drive)

PLANTS (flora)

Plants are very important to life on Earth they;

  1. Provide food

  2. Produce the Oxygen which is vital to animals' and humans' existence.

  3. They clean the air from pollution by absorbing Carbon Dioxide

  4. They help regulate the temperature on Earth

  5. They are home from a variety of animals

When humans breathe (respire) we inhale Oxygen and exhale Carbon Dioxide. Plants do the opposite they take in Carbon Dioxide and release Oxygen through a process called photosynthesis.

The Oxygen Cycle © elasmo holdings pty ltd

The Oxygen Cycle © elasmo holdings pty ltd

What do living things need?

What do you think living things need to survive?

All living things require

  • Air to breathe

  • Water to stay hydrated

  • Food to provide energy

  • Sunlight for energy

  • Suitable and safe environment to grow and reproduce.

Plants and Photosynthesis

Remember earlier we talked about how important plants are to life on Earth? We also mentioned a process called Photosynthesis.

Plants make their own food using photosynthesis. The food produced is the sugar called glucose. Oxygen is formed as a by-product, We need this oxygen that we need to breathe.

Trees provide us with around 30% of the Oxygen we breathe, the ocean provides around 70%. Marine plants in the ocean, called Phytoplankton. These single-celled organisms live at the top of the ocean (first 100m), they take in Carbon Dioxide and release Oxygen by Photosynthesis. . Plants are a vital part to keeping our planet healthy too.

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

Humans and the living world

No species as ever had such an impact on the natural world as we have. As a species we can have both positive and Negative effects on the planet we call home.

Human population growth

The greatest threat to biodiversity is the size and rate of growth of human population. Everyday, more people need more space, consume more resources and generate more waste as world population continues to grow at an alarming rate.

The number of people alive now is at a record level. In 2012, the human population exceeded seven billion for the first time. Each year about 75 million more people are born than die.

Human population growth is reducing biodiversity in the following ways:

  • We cause habitat change through agricultural, urban and industrial development, and the exploitation of natural resources.

  • We pollute soil, water and air.

  • We over-harvest resources which reduces both population sizes and genetic diversity of commercial species, such as fish.

  • We introduce exotic species which damage land and water resources and sometimes bring diseases with them. In addition, they may compete with native plants and animals for food and shelter. Some animals, such as cats and foxes, directly destroy native species.

  • We cause global warming by releasing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, which will alter the nature of ecosystems everywhere. One of the causes of increased levels of carbon dioxide is the burning of carbon-based fuels such as coal, oil and gas.


96% of the mass of mammals on the planet today are us and the live stock that we have domesticated. 4% is everything else. - David Attenborough.

How do you think the following would effect the living things that call it home?

  1. Deforestation

  2. Creating a Dam

Can you sort the positive and negative actions?

What is the Circle of Life?

Life cycle

All animals, including humans, are born, they get older and bigger and some will go on to have children. In the end, all animals die. We call this a life cycle.

When they are grown up, they might reproduce and have young animals of their own. These children will get older and may eventually also have children too, and so the life cycle keeps going! Remember in order for living things to have a healthy life cycle they need;

  • Air to breathe

  • Water to stay hydrated

  • Food to provide energy

  • Sunlight for energy

  • Suitable and safe environment to grow and reproduce.

As a planet we exist together in a delicate balance. We must respect everything on this planet. We are all connected in the great circle of life.

In order to secure a future for our children and for the future of all life on Earth we must begin the make choices everyday, as individuals and as a planet, that benefit and improve the health of this planet, and bring about sustainable changes that secure a healthy planet for future generations.

Nature once determined how we survived, now we determine how nature survives


The value of biodiversity

Protecting biodiversity is in our self-interest. Biological resources are the pillars upon which we build civilizations. Nature's products support such diverse industries as agriculture, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, horticulture, construction and waste treatment. The loss of biodiversity threatens our food supplies, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and sources of wood, medicines and energy. It also interferes with essential ecological functions.

Our need for pieces of nature we once ignored is often important and unpredictable. Our personal health, and the health of our economy and human society, depends on the continuous supply of various ecological services that would be hard or impossible to replace. 

Our individual health will always align with the health of the planet.


Have you ever heard the saying sometimes the small things are the biggest?

Sometimes in the crazy whirlwind, that is life, we stop observing the little things, we miss the sparks of brilliance, the joys of nature - blooming flowers, buzzing bees, singing birds.

Try to take time to regenerate, rejuvenate and energise. Everything has beauty, life and energy, but we don’t always have the eyes to see it. We’ve already talked about how our beliefs and perceptions can alter our reality. Practice developing new ways of looking at things, become more attentive, more mindful, better observers, practice gratitude everyday. It is amazing how things start to change.


Creating our own Terrarium

Let’s create our own mini Environment.

Additional Learning

Youtube Channels to follow


Cool Documentaries

Planet Earth

Other resources

What is classification - Australian Museum

What is biodiversity? - Australian Museum

What is happening to Australia’s biodiversity? - Australian Museum