In general terms, every biological system implies cohesion between its parts . By its nature, a system is a material structure, with dimensions determined in space and time, made up of particularly arranged elements.

It is important to indicate that the elements of any system interact with each other . Something isolated is never part of a system. The relationships between the parts is what articulates the features of the whole, without opposing them.

The parts that make up a system cannot be completely detached from the qualities of that system. That is, they have characteristics of belonging to a certain system.

Specific aspects of a biological system

In this same sense, biological systems – starting from the identification of the human genome – have been understood as complex networks of thousands of interconnected pathways.

Under these new considerations, biological systems are viewed and analyzed from multiple disciplines, not only those linked to biology. Now, computer science, mathematics, physics , among others , are also used . All this in order to understand the emergent properties of these systems.

The reductionist approach to twentieth-century biology gave way to systems or integrative biology of the twenty-first century, which seeks the reconstruction of organisms in a vast interdisciplinary field.

New paradigms in the investigation of biological systems

The paradigm of research on biological systems, in a much broader body of knowledge, is indispensable to understand the dimensions in terms of storage, transmission and transformation of biological information.

The novel computational approach (extended to all disciplines of knowledge), makes it possible to understand the genome as encoded information of phenotypes. Thus arises the purpose of integrative biology, which is to know how these data are modified to generate the forms and functions of various organisms.

An approach that aims at the micro scale

The molecules are structures: the true breath of life. When such molecules are properly organized, then they can generate a cell . And cells are entities that have life!

In this order, in systems with more than one cell cells are organized into increasingly complex chains. Thus, biological systems are configured, which are natural systems with their own life or that make up a living being.

These systems are made up of a complex organization of molecules that give rise to the cell, the basic unit of life. In addition, they not only have their own vital mechanisms. Also, they have the necessary structure to communicate and unite with other cells, and thus generate a new complex and living being.

Are biological systems stable?

In case the system breaks down, the systemic qualities are destroyed; but, the qualities of its elements are preserved. In addition, there are aspects that tend to break the stability of a system. For instance:

  • When a man gets sick, it could be said that a change in the systemic function of the human body happens. This often happens due to an external agent that disrupts the system: virus, bacteria, accident, climate change, etc.
  • Complex biological systems are also distinguished by having measurable cycles . They are aging systems. They inevitably tend to die.
  • They are systems that are affected by the need to obtain inputs . For example, food and oxygen. If they don’t have these elements, they have a problem.

In sum, biological systems form an interrelated, deeply interdependent, reiterative and pleiotropic active network . If one element of the system is disturbed, everything is affected.

Characteristics of biological systems

Biological systems are defined by properties and factors – diversity, complexity, organization, their own laws, levels and sizes – that make them extremely differentiated and unmistakable compared to other complex non-living physical systems. Some of the best known qualities in these systems are the following:

  • Adaptation
  • Increase
  • Development
  • Reproduction
  • Evolution (they are constantly changing, we have already said that they tend to age)

As complex systems, biological systems have the emergent quality of life . Science understands that life emerges as emergent behavior, it is what the corresponding elements of the system execute or make possible, something that when disintegrated they would not do.

Collective behavior and its connection with the environment produce these particular ones. According to the notion of emergence, the self-organizing, self-repairing, self-combinative, self-replicating, reproductive properties of biological systems take place .

Some of the most important properties or characters of these systems are defined below.

Metabolic properties 

Biological systems internally process many chemical chain reactions that allow them to preserve life. These reactions are called metabolism.

The systems maintain a constant flow of information with the outside, since it gives it the essential elements to preserve its internal structure and behavior.

An example is the processes of respiration, photosynthesis in plants , among others, they require matter and energy that the biological system absorbs from the environment.

Homeostatic properties

Biological systems need energy and nutrients to sustain themselves, maintain their structure, and perform their various jobs.

Furthermore, as is known, these systems carry out chemical processes that are already determined in the genetic code; thanks to this the life, functions and internal state of the system are preserved.

Self-regulation of temperature, pH, ion concentration, among other factors, maintain the balance that facilitates the existence of the system. Homeostasis, then, is that indispensable self-regulation according to the complexity of the organism and the type of stimulus, be it physical or chemical.

Reproductive properties

The reproduction of biological systems guarantees their continuity. Reproduction is a natural process in which genetic material is duplicated , transferred, and produces the same or similar offspring.

Adaptive properties

It is the ability of a biological system to adapt to changes in its environment. It is a natural mechanism that serves for survival, which can occur through adaptation and evolution.

Organisms undergo evolutionary changes that make them more fit and reproductive. Similarly, populations of organisms can evolve, generation after generation, generating a series of cumulative genetic transformations , adjusted to the harshness and demands of the environment.

Biological systems reveal structural, physiological, and ethological adaptations and combinations between them . Structural adaptations can be seen in the external components of the system.

  • The physiological adaptations occur when there is a change of the internal functions and metabolism.
  • The ethological adaptations define the turns of the behavior of organisms.

The environment can produce alterations in the behavior of a biological system or modification of its structure and physiology , which finally allows it to survive in a specific environment. For example, abundant fur in animals is known to be an adaptation to subzero environments.

The more complex an organism is, the more efficient is the self-regulation of its processes. In other words, they are more easily molded to minor changes in the environment. Only in the event of major changes in the environment is the process of evolution of an organism activated.

Classification of biological systems

The search for centuries for a way to describe the diversity of the natural world has not been without confrontations and different visions.

  • It is understood that the ” Systematics ” is responsible for addressing the diversity of organisms and their kinship ties.
  • To classify biological systems, “Systematics” goes to ” Taxonomy “, which determines the classification rules.

By applying some classification rules to living things, a hierarchical system is generated, a system that includes groups and subgroups.

In the hierarchical classification system already alluded to, each group comprises a number of characters that brings together certain organisms in that group . The taxonomic classification system was like this:

  • Kingdom
  • Phylum (plural: Phyla)
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Gender
  • Species

In 1959, Whittaker formulated a general classification of living things made up of five kingdoms:

  • Monera Kingdom (Bacteria)
  • Kingdom Protista (Algae and protozoa)
  • Fungi Kingdom (Mushrooms)
  • Kingdom Plantae (Plants
  • Kingdom Animalia (Animals)

The species defines each of the groups into which the genera are divided. A species is the starting point for biological classification. The species are determined by the conjunction of two words (binomial ). The current human species is “Homo sapiens”.

Other considerations about biological systems

In the natural world it is practically impossible to find a biological system that acts independently of the rest of the living systems . And in the case of complex systems, such as the metazoans for example, it is not possible to understand them outside of their systemic constitution made up of less complex systems.3

Mediation, by the environment as well as by other living systems , is essential for the morphology and functions of a system to be fulfilled.

Such is the case of the functioning of the intestine in humans , that without bacterial flora its function would be hampered. The flora acts in the angiogenesis process, necessary to produce the capillaries that allow the assimilation of nutrients.

The above is an example of how two entities apparently – without any ontological relationship – establish a constant synergy, allowing the function of human digestion. 


Very complex biological systems – like the human body – are the articulated sum of many other systems.

This is something that psychology must take into account : the mind is part of a complex biological system . Only in this way can the individual be fully understood.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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