Traits of Life Intro about Exhibits Store Links
The Stuff of Life Life Needs Energy Making More Change Over Time
Jarred In
Museum visitors get a close-up look at plant hydroponics in Phil Ross's art installation, called "Jarred In."

The Traits collection investigates the structure and nature of life through four different sections: The Stuff of Life, Life Needs Energy, Making More Life, and Change Over Time. Each section is designed to help visitors see past the diversity of living things to the underlying unity connecting us all.

The Stuff of Life
Whatever form life takes, it’s put together with the same materials: We’re all made of cells, proteins—and the molecule that tells them both what to do, DNA.

Life Needs Energy
Plants (and some fungi and bacteria) get energy directly, using sunlight to make the food they need. Animals (including us) get energy indirectly, consuming both plants and other animals to get the food they need.

Making More Life
Only living things can create other living things. By making more of themselves, organisms ensure that life goes on, even though individuals die.

Change Over Time
An organism’s appearance and behavior come from information contained in its DNA. Found in the cells of all living things, DNA passes this vital information from generation to generation. Because even a small change in DNA can create radical changes in an organism, DNA has become the engine of evolution.


Potato Cells

Compare cells from different organisms in the Zoom in on Cells exhibit.


Renovation of the Traits of Life exhibit labels in 2010 was supported through the generous support of the Genentech Foundation for Biomedical Sciences.

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