In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek ὄργανον (órganon) 'instrument, implement, tool', and -ισμός (-ismós)) is any living system that functions as an individual entity.[1] All organisms are composed of cells (cell theory).[1] The idea of organism is based on the concept of minimal functional unit of life. Three traits have been proposed to play the main role in qualification as an organism:

  • noncompartmentability – structure that cannot be divided without its functionality loss,[2]
  • individuality – the entity has simultaneous holding of genetic uniqueness, genetic homogeneity and autonomy,[3]
  • distinctness – genetic information has to maintain open-system (a cell).[4]

The bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a single-celled prokaryote.
An amoeba is a single-celled eukaryote.
Polypore fungi and angiosperm trees are large multicellular eukaryotes.

Organisms are classified by taxonomy into groups such as multicellular animals, plants, and fungi; or unicellular microorganisms such as protists, bacteria, and archaea.[5] All types of organisms are capable of reproduction, growth and development, maintenance, and some degree of response to stimuli. Beetles, squids, tetrapods, mushrooms, and vascular plants are examples of multicellular organisms that differentiate specialized tissues and organs during development.

A unicellular organism may be either a prokaryote or a eukaryote. Prokaryotes are represented by two separate domains bacteria and archaea. Eukaryotic organisms are characterized by the presence of a membrane-bound cell nucleus and contain additional membrane-bound compartments called organelles (such as mitochondria in animals and plants and plastids in plants and algae, all generally considered to be derived from endosymbiotic bacteria).[6] Fungi, animals and plants are examples of kingdoms of organisms within the eukaryotes.

Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 2 million to 1 trillion,[7] of which over 1.7 million have been documented.[8] More than 99% of all species, amounting to over five billion species,[9] that ever lived are estimated to be extinct.[10][11]

In 2016, a set of 355 genes from the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of all organisms from Earth was identified.[12][13]

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