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Re: Mice given bat-like forelimbs through gene switch

All of these are written for students of metazoan or metaphyte biology. They do not exhaustively cover the whole of life. You are simply mistaken, and are reading these texts as if they covered more than they do.

From Arms and Camp _Biology_ fourth edition:

"organism An individual living thing made up of one or more cells" - glossary

"All organisms -- the individual animals plants, fungi, algae, protozoa and bacteria on earth - are related." p1

Campbell, Reece and Mitchell, _Biology_, fifth edition:

"Cells are subunits of organisms, and organisms are the units of life. Some organisms, such as amoebas, consist of single cells..." p2

If you read the introductory pages of your textbooks carefully, you will not be confused as you are.

On 22/01/2008, at 12:13 PM, Jura wrote:

--- Tim Williams <twilliams_alpha@hotmail.com> wrote:

Sorry, but I refuse to believe that a textbook would
actually say this.  Nor do I believe that any
self-respecting textbook would refer to a virus as
"single celled" (another statement of yours).  If I
had to hazard a guess I'd say that certain
biological terms are being conflated or confused,
and I doubt that the textbook is the guilty party.
The Biology 101/Anatomy 101 study notes issued by
the teachers(s) are perhaps to blame, rather than
the textbooks they are purportedly based on.  (Of
course, I could be wrong; there could be shonky
textbooks out there that are re-inventing biological


One could argue that viruses are single celled (the
part they are missing that constitutes life is a
metabolism, not a coating), but regardless, most of my
previous statements were meant for bacteria and

I'm amazed that I am the only one who seems to have
come across this separation of organism from life form
on this list. I'm really not making any of this stuff

A superficial Google book search might help illustrate
my point.

From: Principles of Anatomy and Physiology


"Cells are the basic structural and functional units
of the organism."

From: Modern Biology


"6. Organism level

In an organism various organ systems are integrated to
perform the life activities. A complex multicellular
organism, such as human being [sic], represents an
exremely high level of organisation."

From: Plant Biomechanics: An Engineering Approach to
Plant Form & Function.


"Much of current theory regarding development and
evolution depends on the idea that the cell is the
fundamental biological unit. This concept is part of
the intellectual legacy of the cell theory that
implicitly considers every organism a republic
composed of essentially independent cells (see Buss
1987, for example). True, many growth processes are
best studied at the level of the cell, which may be a
convenient surrogate when the behaviour of the
protoplast is hard to see, but the cell theory has led
to the idea that the concept of the cell and the
concept of the organism are logically interchangeable.
Nothing can be further from the truth."

From: Biology: A Functional Approach.


"The cell theory states that the cell is the basic
unit of an organism, the whole organism being little
more than a collection of independent cells; the
organismal theory states that the whole organism is
the basic unit, the cells being incidental sub-units."

Does any of this help clear things up?


Single celled organism is an oxymoron. Yeah, it is
used a lot, but that doesn't make it correct.

This really depends on who "it is used a lot" by.
Considering that the term "single celled organism"
is used by scientists who work with single celled
organisms (bacteria, archaea, or unicellular
eukaryotes), that makes the term as correct as it
can be.  The term "micro-organism" has the same


If the definition of organism requires there to be a
collection of cell(as shown in the excerpts above),
then the term: "single-celled organism" directly
translates to: single celled collection of cells. It's
still an oxymoron.

Micro-organism holds together a bit better, and could
certainly stand on its own as a meaning for
single-celled creatures. It certainly beats:

But as long as "organism" still refers to the organism
level of complexity, it doesn't make much sense to use
it as a catch-all term for all living things (or
debatably living things, in the case of viruses).

This is somewhat similar to the issue of calling all
insects and arachnids: bugs.


"I am impressed by the fact that we know less about many modern [reptile] types than we do of many fossil groups." - Alfred S. Romer

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-- John S. Wilkins, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Philosophy University of Queensland - Blog: scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts "He used... sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire. He was vicious."