Basic Biology test!


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Andrew Brookes/Cultura/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Back in school, you might have liked chemistry better. Or maybe physics. But do those sciences allow you to, you know, breathe? We didn't think so! 

Biology, as you probably know, is the very science of life. It's the base of more specific scientific fields like botany, animal behavior, nutrition and more. And, of course, it underlies all fields of medicine. So perhaps it's time you took a second look at this classic element of middle-school and high-school curricula, and find out how much you remember from those long-ago classes. 

How much, for example, do you know about the cell? From the Latin for "small room," the cell is to biology what the atom is to chemistry, its most basic part. (Although, as with atoms, there are things in biology smaller than cells). Also, if you want to be a biology whiz, you'd better learn how things are classified. A large part of basic biology is sorting things into groups and subgroups, based on their size, how they reproduce, and more. Which reminds us -- do you remember the name of the Swedish botanist/zoologist who is known as the father of modern taxonomy? For that matter, did you know that classification in biology is *called* taxonomy? We really hope so, or this quiz might not go so well!

Good luck!

What is the basic, catch-all term for a living thing?

In biology class, be prepared to hear this word a lot. It stands in for "any single living thing."


What is the practice, or system, of classifying organisms called?

Taxonomy is the practice of ordering living things in a scientific fashion. Nowadays, we also refer to "cladistics," which is ordering things according to their evolutionary characteristics.


Which word is missing? "Kingdom, phylum, _____, order, family, genus, species."

There are a number of mnemonic devices that will help you remember this sequence. May we suggest the of-the-moment "Katy Perry Caught One Fine Guy Saturday"?


An organism's scientific name is made up of its what?

In scientific names, the genus is uppercased while the species is lowercased. So humans are, scientifically, Homo sapiens.


Where would you find a "base pair"?

"Base pairs" are the rungs in the DNA ladder. You'll see a more specific question about that "ladder" elsewhere in this quiz.


Which of these terms are you unlikely to encounter on a biology exam?

Air resistance is a common term in physics. All problems involving motion have to account for it, unless they take place in a vacuum (or that ideal Physics 101 environment where the professor says, "You don't have to worry about air resistance for this one.")


What does "DNA" stand for?

We feel for you if you chose "deoxynucleic acid." It seems like the syllable "ribo" should be represented by an "R," but it isn't.


What is the twisted shape of a DNA strand called?

Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, realized the structure of DNA in a kind of "lightning bolt" of inspiration. Overwhelmed with excitement, he burst into his house, the story goes, and asked his wife to draw a twisted ladder as he described it to her. (Apparently, she was the better illustrator of the two).


Which of these is not one of the four constituents of DNA?

Glucose is simple sugar, or blood sugar (when it's in the bloodstream). The other four elements are molecules in base pairs of DNA.


Water moves in and out of cells via what process?

Osmosis is the process in which water moves from areas of high density to low density. This allows it to move in and out of cells.


What kind of invaders does an antibiotic fight?

Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. This is important, because the pointless use of antibiotics against viruses is one of the things which has led to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or "superbugs."


Who is the creator of modern taxonomy?

Carl Linnaeus was a Swedish zoologist and botanist. He created the narrowing classification system we all learn in middle school, down to "genus" and "species."


Structures inside a cell are called _______.

Just as the body has organs, the cell has organelles. Like organs, they are biologically active, not just inert, as the cytoplasm is.


Where in the cell is the genetic blueprint of the whole organism found?

The nucleus is a bit like the "brain" or "command center" of the cell. There, you'll find a complete set of chromosomes for the entire organism. That's why cloning is possible from just one cell. Amazing!


Cell death is more formally called what?

Mitosis is cell division, or birth. Apoptosis is cell death, and when it happens at higher rates than expected, it's a sign that something is very wrong in the body.


Which of these is the "power plant" of the cell?

Mitochondria break down nutrients and create ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, a power source. Mitochondria also contain some DNA, which is why you'll hear about forensic scientists using mitochondrial DNA for testing when nuclear DNA has not survived at a crime scene.


In humans, how many pairs of chromosomes are in each cell nucleus?

This has become a lot easier to remember since the advent of the gene-testing serivce "23 and Me"!


A "motile" cell can do what?

"Motile" is just a fancy word for "capable of movement." Sperm cells have a special tail-like projection that makes them motile.


When the systems of your body are in balance, you are in what state?

"Homeostasis" means "situation normal" for the body, like the temperature being about 98.6 degrees (give or take). Illness and injury make homeostasis hard to maintain.


A prokaryote is a single-celled organism without what?

Bacteria are prokaryotes. They are very simple organisms, yet can be very hardy, and sometimes destructive.


Which of these is a "biome"?

"Biome" isn't exactly easy to define. Think of it like a climate, but with more factors involved, especially the flora and fauna living there. Tundra, taiga, desert and rainforest are all examples.


Something that causes a disease is called what?

"Pathology" is a field in medicine which, unsurprisingly, studies the causes of disease. The term "pathology" has been borrowed by psychology, where psychologists use it to describe the root and the course of a mental disorder.


Which of these substances makes plants green?

Chlorophyll is the key component in photosynthesis. It gives plants their lovely green colors.


Which of these prefixes means a cell is involved?

In medicine, "cytology" is the study of processes that take place at the cellular level. Lab work often involves cytology.


What is "cytoplasm"?

Cytoplasm is made up mostly of water and salt. It's a lot like vitreous humor in the eye, existing to support the parts of the cell within.


The citric-acid cycle is also known as _______.

Though we think of the lungs as the place where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide, this process also happens in the mitochondria of your cells. It is called the "citric acid cycle" or the "Krebs cycle," after biochemist Hans Krebs.


If an organism is "oviparous," what does it do?

The prefix "ovi-" means we're dealing with eggs, and "oviparous" means reproducing via eggs. Sidenote: Is "oviphagous" a word, meaning "egg-eating"? It should be!


Which of these mammals lays eggs?

The playtpus breaks so many rules of taxonomy that the first European scientists to examine the cadaver of one thought it was a hoax. It is the only mammal to lay eggs, and one of the few to have venom.


If an animal is a "homeotherm," then it can regulate its own _____.

The more common term for this is "warm-blooded." Humans are homeotherms, which means our bodies tend to stay at 98.6 degrees regardless of conditions around us.


"Torpor" is a state similar to _____.

"Torpor" is a kind of "hibernation lite." It helps animals to conserve energy, but they don't disappear into it for an entire season.


True or false: Sodium is always not always harmful to the body.

Far from it! Sodium is essential to conducting water into cells. When people go on extreme low-sodium diets, it can lead to hyponatremia, a type of dehydration that occurs within the body, no matter how much water that person drinks.


Which of these was most recent human organ to be identified?

The interstitium went unnoticed for so long because it is a very thin membrane that wraps around body parts. How it affects the body's functions is not really known yet.


The opposite of parasitism is called what?

When two species have a relationship that benefits both of them, that's mutualism. An example is pollination, in which birds or bees feed off the nectar of flowers, but spread the pollen the flowers need to reproduce.


Commensalism is a relationship between two species in which one benefits and the other ...

Commensalism falls between parasitism and mutualism. The host species might well *be* unaware, but the main point is that it is unharmed.


Fun fact question: The sci-fi movie "Gattaca" based its title on what aspect of biology?

"Gattaca" was about a future world in which your genetic code -- superior, adequate or inferior -- shaped your destiny. Fittingly, the title was made up entirely of the four letters in DNA base pairs: G, A, T and C.


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