The committee developed four core ideas reflecting unifying principles in life sciences. These core ideas are essential for a conceptual understanding of the life sciences and will enable students to make sense of emerging research findings. We begin at the level of organisms, delving into the many processes and structures, at scales ranging from components as small as individual atoms to organ systems that are necessary for life to be sustained. Our focus then broadens to consider organisms in their environment—how they interact with the environment’s living (biotic) and physical (abiotic) features. Next the chapter considers how organisms reproduce, passing genetic information to their offspring, and how these mechanisms lead to variability and hence diversity within species. Finally, the core ideas in the life sciences culminate with the principle that evolution can explain how the diversity that is observed within species has led to the diversity of life across species through a process of descent with adaptive modification. Evolution also accounts for the remarkable similarity of the fundamental characteristics of all species.


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