Can You Pass a Basic Biology Test?



By: Staff Author

6 Min Quiz

Image: Donald Iain Smith/ Blend Images/gettyimages

About This Quiz

One of the great achievements of the last hundred years of progressive is that these days, the vast majority of people are literate. Indeed, in the Nordic nations, literacy has reached 100%! In America, literacy in English is lower, hovering down around 91% for those for whom English is a first language. Not all members of that 91% are necessarily very good at reading and writing, but they can just about squeeze out the correct inference from the instructions on a plastic bag when it tells them not to put their head in it.

That's why it's all the more alarming to consider how many people really have no idea what's going on in their own body, or the animal and plant kingdoms around us. People believe all sorts of silly myths about how diseases work or when you can get pregnant or how heredity and genetics work. Some of these errors are harmless, such as people who don't know (say) how seahorses reproduce: If you're not a marine biologist, this is not exactly the most important information you will ever encounter, even if it is extremely interesting. Other mistakes are far more serious, and involve not understanding proper nutrition, how to prevent pregnancy or improve the odds of it, or how and why vaccines work.

This quiz is not for the people who don't get it, though. We're here to find the folks who really know basic biology: the ones who might never hold a PhD in the topic, but who are, in a biological sense, fully literate. Are you one of them? Let's find out!

What genus are dogs?

Dogs are canis canis! All creatures have a Latin name that describes their genus, which is a category which may contain a number of species.


Which of these is NOT a human blood group?

XY is a pair of chromosomes. A, B, AB, and O are the four types of human blood. Some can be donated to one another but you have to get the right combination for it to work!


What is it called when a doctor gives a person a sample of a dead virus that the person does not have, thereby training their immune system to recognize that disease and kill it in future?

Vaccines give you an inert version of the disease so your immune system doesn't wait around for you to get sick if the real version shows up. They have saved hundreds of millions of lives, eradicating some terrible diseases. For vaccines to be effective, over 90% of the population must have them to create "herd immunity" so those medically unable to vaccinate (eg the immuno-compromised) are protected.


What is the basic unit of all living things?

A cell is the necessary building block of life. Cells are made of atoms etc, but until those atoms join up to be a cell, they're not going to create a living thing.


Which of these is NOT an organ in the human body?

A rumen is a kind of stomach humans don't have. The other three options are all real organs that you have right now (we hope)! Rumens are found in cows and other "ruminants". They're the origin of the word "ruminate" meaning to ponder something slowly and thoroughly.


Which is the biggest organ in the body?

Skin is the biggest organ. It's not intuitive because you think of it as so thin, but it is. It's actually amazing, performing a huge variety of functions like sweating, warming, cooling, and of course, looking beautiful (we'd like to see a liver do that)!


By what name is deoxyribonucleic acid commonly known?

DNA's full name is deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is the essential secret of life.


What is the name of the process by which plants make oxygen?

Photo means light, and synthesis means to make - hence photosynthesis is the process of making light into something else! In this case, sunlight turns into oxygen and nutrition for the plant.


What chemical makes plants green?

Chlorophyll is in many plants, and it's green, so they are green, too! Some plants that are red or blue appear not to have it, but they do, they just don't have much or have other chemicals present too.


Which is the biggest bone in the human body?

Your femur is your thigh bone and is by far your biggest bone. Both spine and skull are each made up of lots of bones all connected together - the latter by fusing and the former by cartilage.


What is it called when excess carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels, and traps heat on the planet's surface, raising global temperatures?

Global warming is one of the main drivers of climate change. The umbrella term "climate change" encompasses not just the general warming but also the storms (in some areas), rising sea levels and droughts (in other areas) that hotter temperatures can cause, by messing with ocean currents, adding energy and heat to systems, and changing the "hydrology" of the planet (ie the means by which water moves around).


What causes farsightedness?

Nearsightedness comes from too big of a curve in the cornea. Farsightedness comes from the opposite. It may be genetic or simply bad luck.


Which of these is NOT an arthropod?

Snails are molluscs, which are soft. Arthropods have a hard jointed exoskeleton. Arachnids are a type of arthropod.


Which is the only organ in the human - male or female - that seems to exist solely for pleasure?

It's true; this organ appears to only be for pleasure, which just shows that whether evolution happened on its own or God decided it'd turn out this way, we are supposed to enjoy ourselves! Nature wants us to, and who are we to argue with that?


What foodstuff, made of monosaccharides, provides you with energy?

Carbs are considered the enemy by many dieters, but they're not. You need them to live. You just don't always need vast quantities - but if you're working out, you better eat those carbs!


What is it called when one organism uses another in a unilaterally beneficial way that hurts the other organism?

A parasite is an organism that lives off another organism and harms it. It may not always kill it but sometimes it does. An example would be ivy growing on a tree: the tree gets nothing out of it and the ivy eventually sucks up all the nutrients and strangles the tree.


What is it called when two different organisms use each other in mutual beneficial way?

Symbiosis is when two organisms share a space and mutually benefit one another, though not necessarily intentionally. Good gut bacteria counts as symbiotic, since it helps you digest food and you give it a place to live.


What is the study of classifying types of animals called?

Taxonomy means classifying everything in the right way. It's not to be confused with taxidermy, which means stuffing dead animals.


What is a particular biological ecosystem that suits a particular species or group of species called?

Habitat is a place that's uniquely suited to certain species. For example, some animals need to live in a very soggy rainforest. Others like a nice hot, dry desert. Those are their habitats. Losing your habitat can spell death for a species.


What are the proteins in your body called that speed up chemical reactions like digestion?

This word comes from the Greek "enzumos" that means "leavened," because enzymes help to change things in the same way that leavening changes the chemical structure of bread. Enzymes make things happen like breaking down food to get the nutrition out of it.


Identical twins are genetically clones. True or false?

They are indeed clones. Identical twins happen when a single egg divides into two. Fraternal twins are two eggs that both fertilize together.


How many pairs of chromosomes does a human DNA strand have?

Humans have 23 chromosome pairs. Some animals have a lot more, some life forms have fewer. In those pairs are written the code that makes you unique.


Which of these acronyms covers the characteristics of life?

Mrs Gren is a very helpful lady! Her name stands for Movement Respiration, Sensitivity, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion, Nutrition. If something does those things, it's alive. It may not be a person (eg rabbits do them all, as do trees), but it's life.


What is the process by which the body maintains a consistent internal environment?

"Homo" means the same, as in "homosexual" or "homogeneous". Homeostasis is thus a process of keeping something the same - in this case, your internal temperature, moisture levels, etc.


What happens to your enzymes if your body gets too hot?

Enzymes love it as hot as possible - until they don't. Once they get too hot, the membranes around them break down and they die. That's why it's really important not to get too hot.


What is the main difference between a plant cell and an animal cell?

Plant cells have a wall made of something called cellulose. It's strong stuff that keeps their cells protected. Animal cells only have a membrane.


Which of these is a method of cell division?

Meiosis is when a cell turns into four daughter cells. It's unlike mitosis, which is a process that produces only two daughter cells. These are the main ways that cells reproduce.


Why do people yawn?

We still don't know why we yawn, but since yawning often feels nice, it's good that we do it! We also don't know why it's contagious, or why some people seem able to see a yawn and not yawn in return. We do know that reading the word "yawn" this many times may actually have made you yawn just now - if it did, let us know!


What is the correct name for the sense by which you are aware of your body parts' current location relative to themselves?

Proprioception is not spatial awareness. The latter means being aware of how things in the world fit together, including yourself. Proprioception is being aware of your body relative only to itself. It's how you know where your foot is if you want to reach to scratch it, or how you can touch your nose with your eyes closed. It's the grand challenge of prosthetic limbs, which are only now developing this ability.


What is it called when a gene can be present in a person but is not expressed?

Recessive chins are present but they don't appear. For example, the gene for brown eyes is dominant, so if you have a blue-eyed and a brown-eyed parent, the child will have a recessive blue gene, but their eyes will be brown thanks to the dominant brown gene.


What is it called when an animal reproduces by bringing forth live young?

Animals that give birth to live young are viviparous. That is a characteristic of mammals, the species who do this.


Which scientist's pioneering work in X-ray crystallography uncovered the structure of DNA?

Rosalind Franklin is known as the Dark Lady of DNA because her colleagues stole her work and didn't take her seriously. She was a prickly person, as many of us might be if our work was being stolen! She got cancer from all the X-rays so died before she could share the Nobel prize for uncovering the structure of DNA.


What is the term for the maximum number of organisms that can live in a habitat without destroying it?

The carrying capacity of a habitat may be exceeded if a species over-breeds, which can result in famine or disease, or in the case of humans and some other species, war. Carrying capacity can be expanded by good management of an area eg weeding your garden provides more space for lovely flowers!


Which biologist uncovered the damage that the pesticide DDT does to non-pest animals like birds and also humans?

Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" made a monster impact when it came out in 1962. It explained that DDT, previously thought to be a miracle, was actually going much too far and instead of killing pests, was killing whole systems and species. Fortunately, humans stopped using it and animals and plants recovered.


Which of these is not one of the three main types of living thing?

Life comes in three types: plant, animal and fungus. There used to just be plants and animals but fungi kept defying classification so they got their own branch.


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