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- 1.1 - Structural classification of living beings

par Denys LÉPINARD

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While solely taking into account the structure of the constituents of living beings and matter, I noticed that some were built from a small amount of different components, while others were made of a great number of similar components. Let's take as an example an animal which is constituted by a comparatively small number of organs, while one of its very organs, be that a muscle or a liver, brings together a large number of nearly identical cells. Thereafter, while taking this first observation one step further, I managed to separate all the living constituents into two categories, defined as follows :

This so described structure shows that these two categories are mutually exclusive; it leads onto a continuity due to their alternation. All these facts are collected in the Table 1.1, which contains all the constitutive parts of the living world, ranging from the hydrogen atom to the Biosphere.

Table 1.1 - Classification of biologic world components

Let’s examine these two categories :

1.1.1-The individuals.

From the table 1.1, let's work our way through the left column from the top down.

  • The hydrogen atom is constituted by one electron and one proton. It clearly falls into this category, i.e. a small amount of different constitutive parts. It is the first individual within this classification. The deuterium, comprising of one proton, one neutron and one electron may be added to it.

  • On the level immediately above, is the molecule; more specifically the small monomer biochemical molecule, a sugar like glucose, an amino-acid and some other small molecules used by living matter. These small molecules are constituted by a few different atoms. For instance, glucose is composed by 6 atoms of carbon, 12 of hydrogen, 6 of oxygen. Beside those 3 components, amino-acids contain 1 or 2 nitrogen atoms.

  • Enzymatic function unity is constituted by a few macromolecules gathered so as to participate in an enzymatic activity. Some, small in size, are constituted by one or two proteins and resort to coenzymes and metallic ions so as to function. Some others, bigger in size, such as the Ribosome muster two sub-units constituted by RNA and proteins.

  • Cell contains a small amount of different organelles such as nucleus, mitochondria, Golgi apparatus, endoplasmic reticulum and so on. Although such amount begins to increase and it is difficult at times to separate the functions, an exhaustive analyse of the whole remains quite possible.

  • Vegetal or animal organism. Without enumerating the list of organs (our assemblies) of an animal, it obviously remains comparatively finite.

  • Biosphere, namely the set of living matter around the Earth. We can enumerate some great functions such as photosynthesis made by vegetable kingdom, herbivores which consume plants, carnivores which consume herbivores and human activity whose function seems to be the overall organisation of such biosphere.


1.1.2 The assemblies.

Inversely from the individuals we have seen above, the assemblies are composed by a great number of similar individuals. Please refer to the right column, on the Table 1.1

  • Atoms. In the aggragate, they are built by successive additions of deuterium atoms (1 proton + 1 neutron + 1 electron). Towards the heaviest atoms, the number of neutrons appreciably increases. We think that this is for counterbalancing repulsive forces due to proton positive charges. Structure leads to the great number of similar constituents. The heaviest steady atom, namely the uranium 238, musters 92 electrons, as many protons and 146 neutrons.

  • Macromolecules. They are polymers. The main representatives are DNA molecules, formed by sequences of nucleic basis, proteins constituted by sequences of amino-acids and glycogen originating from the repetition of glucose molecules. Here, components are not always identical but similar, and they do memorise information in their differences, they may become very large in numbers.

  • Cellular organelles ; mitochondria or endoplasmic reticulum for instance ; in them, the membrane is lined with many enzymatic unities, energy producers in mitochondria, ribosomes in rough endoplasmic reticulum...

  • Animal organs; A tissue, a liver, a muscle are constituted by a collection of similar cells. Such cells are of several types but of complementary functions.

  • Animal or vegetal societies. They are constituted by a great number of similar animals or plants, ranging from all the forests of the world which fulfil a photosynthesis function to herbivores or the human society.


There are many aspects that tend to oppose these two categories, i.e. Individuals and Assemblies. On the one hand, individuals have different components which can oppose and regulate mutually. Thereby they respond to their environmental stimuli, they are active and indivisible, hence their name. On the other hand, assemblies which have similar components are able to exercise but a few functions. They are rather passive, submissive to the upper level individual they belong to and, to some extend, they are divisible. For example, if an assembly is sectioned, most of the time it will be able to keep on functioning all the same - it is possible to live with half a liver - whereas an individual treated in such a way will unavoidably be destroyed. Furthermore, individuals treat information, while assemblies keep it and then restore it. For these reasons we pay greater interest to individuals.


In order to properly enlighten this classification, analysis ought to remain global and concentrated on broad outlines, whatever the level may be. It is always possible to come across half way between cases, not to say exceptions. Let's sooner consider that we make a first analytic approach of the living world, whose very polymorphous character has always been refractory against such an approach. Therefore, successfully displaying (even in rough a way) this alternation between individuals and assemblies in all the complexity of the living matter proves to be an important stage. These two states, namely individuals formed by a few different assemblies and assemblies formed by a great number of similar individuals, must at first be considered as two ideal, opposed poles towards which the organisation of living beings tends. It will become clearer one we have gone through the ontostat concept (Lépinard 1993).


1.1.3 The levels.

Therefore, knowing that the definition of individuals and assemblies implies an alternation, levels naturally arise from the going back phase. On the Table 1.1, we may see 6 of them, numbered from 0 up. They are actually organisation levels due to the fact that they are built on structure. As it happens, they are also complexity levels, seeing that they are set up on the number of components, and to that respect, if one individual is able to achieve that a greater number of individuals of a lower level work together, it ought to be of greater level of complexity. It is worth noticing that these levels overlap the living and no-living matter. This is surprising but, for the time being, we can only observe and ascertain such a fact, while waiting for further explanations.
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