Basic Biology

Getting started

Introduction to Biology


Biology is the study of life and, as living things, humans have an inherent sense of curiosity and affection towards life and how has come to be. The study of biology incorporates everything imaginable related to the life on Earth.



Living things display certain characteristics that distinguish them from non-living, material objects. “MRS GREN” is an acronym often used to help remember all the necessary traits expressed by living organisms.

Kingdoms of Life

The huge diversity of life on Earth is typically separated into six broad kingdoms: Bacteria, Archaea, Protista, Plantae, Fungi and Animalia. Each kingdom has a number of distinct features that separates it from the others.


Evolution is one of the governing principles of modern biology. The theory of evolution states that the magnificent diversity of life on Earth has evolved from common ancestors over time into the millions of species that now inhabit Earth.

Fields of Biology

Biology is a huge topic to study and can be broken into a ton of more specific fields of study. The different fields might focus on particular types of organisms, environments or molecular aspects of life such as genetics or physiology.

The study of biology incorporates everything imaginable that is related to the life on Earth – from the entire planet to tiny microscopic structures, biology covers it all. Studying living things, called organisms, takes us all around the world, from the most productive tropical rain forests to the hostile lands of Antarctica or the deepest oceanic basins.

Getting Started

Introduction to Biology


A World of Animals


Mammals are a group of warm-blooded vertebrate animals and include the largest animals on the planet. They are distinguished from other animals by having hair or fur and mammary glands for milk production in females.


Birds are a class of animals known as Aves and are distinguishable from other animals by having wings and feathers. Birds are currently the largest group of vertebrate animals with more than 10,000 species found around the world.


Reptiles, class Reptilia, are a group of animals that include snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tuatara. They are an ancient group of cold-blooded, egg laying vertebrates with scales or scutes rather than fur or feathers.


Fish are a group of aquatic animals with skulls, gills and digitless limbs. Fish were the first vertebrate animals to evolve and there is now more than 30,000 species living on Earth, the highest diversity found in tropical coral reefs.


An invertebrate is any animal without an internal backbone such as insects, shellfish, worms, and jellyfish. The diversity of invertebrates far outnumbers that of the vertebrate animals, making up roughly 95% of all animal species. 

Animals are the most advanced living things on the planet. They have evolved into a huge variety of shapes and sizes, adaptations and behaviors that makes studying animals a fascinating area of biology.


A World of Animals


The Global Providers


 All plants that grow flowers and fruit belong to the group known as the angiosperms. They the most advanced, diverse and abundant group of plants in the world and include around 200,000 plant species.


Gymnosperms are a group of woody, vascular plants with seeds but without flowers or fruit. The seeds of gymnosperm plants sit exposed on cones rather than enclosed in a fruit as they are with angiosperm plants.

Ferns & Lycophytes

Ferns and lycophytes are two groups of vascular plants without wood, seeds or flowers. They include over 12,000 species from an ancient groups of plants that once dominated the forests in many parts of the world.

Non-vascular plants

The non-vascular plants include mosses, hornworts and liverworts and some algae. They are generally small plants limited in size by poor transport methods for water, gases and other compounds.

Plant Physiology

Plant physiology encompasses the study of plant form and function. As plants evolved to life on land they were required to evolve methods to extract CO², light and water from the atmosphere and soil.

Plants are essential to almost all life on Earth. By converting sun light and carbon dioxide into sugars, plants build the foundations for all land based ecosystems and the majority of aquatic ecosystems.


The Global Providers


One World


Around 21% of the Earth’s surface is exposed land which can be split into a range of different environments that vary due to differences in their climates. Environments on land are known as terrestrial environments and they can be both very hospitable and extremely tough places to live.


Earth is often referred to as the blue planet because seas and oceans cover more than 75% of the Earth’s surface, making marine environments the most common habitat on Earth. Water also provides a 3-dimensional habitat which increases the space available for organisms to inhabit.


 Freshwater is one of the most important substances for life on Earth and with its absence many environments would be almost void of life. Of the Earth’s 1.4 billion km3 of water, only 2.5% is freshwater and 80% of that is locked up as ice in the polar regions. 


The relationships between living things and the environment are both intricate and complex. Ecology is a field of biology that studies how plants, animals and microorganisms are effected by one another, and how they affect and are effect by their environments. 


The environment provides living things with everything that is necessary to survive such as nutrients in the soil, water and sunlight.


One World


Discover the Microscopic World



Cells are the basic unit of life and are the most reduced structures capable of sustaining life. All living things consist of either a single cell, e.g. bacteria and amoebas, or many cells, for example animals. Some of the most advanced organisms such as animals and plants can be made from more than one trillion cells.


Genetics is a discipline of biology that studies genes and the passing of characteristics from one generation to the next which is known as heredity. The process of heredity is what causes children to look like their parents and is determined by genes found within the cells of organisms.


Biochemistry is a field of biology that studies the chemical reactions within living organisms. Life is simply a series of hundreds of thousands of chemical reactions and biochemistry studies the very important chemical pathways that have allowed for life to evolve and diversify around the world.


Bacteria are microscopic organisms with only one cell and are found pretty much everywhere on Earth. They are prokaryotic organisms, meaning their cells do not have a true nucleus, as opposed to plants, animals, and protists which are eukaryotic and have cells which do contain a true nucleus.


Fungi are a kingdom of microscopic organisms closely related to animals and include spore producing organisms such as mushrooms, yeast and molds. They are almost always invisible to the naked eye but at certain times, some fungi will produce large fruiting bodies which allow for huge amounts of spores to be produced.


Algae are difficult to define. They are a hugely diverse group of organisms and are found in a number of places along the evolutionary tree. Traditionally, all algae are believed to have evolved from cyanobacteria, i.e. the blue-green algae, or the fusion of a cyanobacterium with another larger cell.

The study of the microscopic world falls into two main categories, firstly the study of microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and phytoplankton, which exist in huge masses and make up as much as 90% of the world's living activity. 

The second branch of microscopic biology is the study of the structures and compounds that make an organism. Each organism contain one or many cells, and each cells is run by a series of chemical reactions that keep it alive.


Discover the Microscopic World


Wild and Natural


Pine tree
Tui bird
Tui bird
Rocky shore at Hahei
Hahei beach