A Diversity of Organisms

The following section contains descriptions of over 50 groups of organisms that represent some of the diversity of the inanimate world.  Some, like corn, are already familiar, while others are probably unfamiliar.  But all have interesting aspects to their biology, and most are significant to human endeavors.  For each group there is information concerning the following areas, matching the five sections of the book:

  • taxonomy and phylogeny
  • structure
  • reproduction
  • matter and energy acquisition
  • interactions, including interactions significant to humans

The taxonomic level (e.g. species, genus, family) of the groups that are being characterized varies.  For most of the descriptions I give a genus name but the description usually characterizes a bigger group, often an entire phylum.  You should appreciate that almost all taxonomic entities have aberrant forms that may not fit into the description given.  For example, I use the genus Rhizopus to represent the bread molds, a phylum of fungi.  Not all members of this group are exactly like Rhizopus but the description does characterize many of the members of this group. 

Note that this book is NOT organized by groups but rather by important features that organisms possess: structure, modes of reproduction, means of matter and energy acquisition, and interactions with other organisms and with the physical environment.  Because of this, much of the information for any particular group may not come into focus until reading the ‘textbook’ part of the book.  

Acetabularia, an unusual unicellular green algae

Agaricus bisporus, the commercial mushroom


Bracket Fungi

Calupera, a large coenocytic green algae.

Chlamydomonas, a small unicellular green alga

Chytrids, tiny fungi

Clubmosses: Lycopodium

Coccolithophores, photosynthetic unicellular algae

Coltsoot: Tussilago farfara


Corralorhiza, a plant that eats fungi

Cryptomonads, unicellular photosynthetic algae


Diatoms, unicellular photosynthetic algae

Dictyostelium: a cellular slime mold

Ephedra: jointfir

Euglena: a unicellular algae


Glomeromycota: important mycorrhizal fungi

Gonyaulax: a dinoflagellate



Horsetails, the genus Equisetum


Kelp: Laminaria, a brown algae

Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pumonaria)

Marchantia: thalloid liverwort

Marsilea: the 4-leaf clover fern

Molds: ubiquitous fungi

Nostoc: the smallest multicellular organism

Oedogonium: a filamentous green algae

Physarum: a plasmodial slime mold


Pinus: pine trees

Polytrichium: hairy cap moss


Potatoes: Solanum tuberosum

Porphyra: an edible red algae

Redwoods: the tallest and largest trees

Rhizobium: nitrogen fixing bacteria



Rust fungi (order Pucciniales, formerly Uredinales)


Sarracenia, a carnivorous plant

Seaweed, Fucus: a brown algae

Sensitive fern

Soybeans (and other beans)

Sphagnum-peat moss

Sunflower: Helianthus annuus

Tar Spot Fungus

Thermus aquaticus


Wood ferns



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Inanimate Life by George M. Briggs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.