mechanisms of inheritance and variability are key to understanding both the unity and the diversity of life on Earth.
The committee developed four core ideas reflecting unifying principles in life sciences. These core ideas are essential for a conceptual understanding of the life sciences and will enable students to make sense of emerging research findings. We begin at the level of organisms, delving into the many processes and structures, at scales ranging from components as small as individual atoms to organ systems that are necessary for life to be sustained. Our focus then broadens to consider organisms in their environment—how they interact with the environment’s living (biotic) and physical (abiotic) features. Next the chapter considers how organisms reproduce, passing genetic information to their offspring, and how these mechanisms lead to variability and hence diversity within species. Finally, the core ideas in the life sciences culminate with the principle that evolution can explain how the diversity that is observed within species has led to the diversity of life across species through a process of descent with adaptive modification. Evolution also accounts for the remarkable similarity of the fundamental characteristics of all species.
The first core idea, LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes, addresses how individual organisms are configured and how these structures function to support life, growth, behavior, and reproduction. The first core idea hinges on the unifying principle that cells are the basic unit of life.
The second core idea, LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics, explores organisms’ interactions with each other and their physical environment. This includes how organisms obtain resources, how they change their environment, how changing environmental factors affect organisms and ecosystems, how social interactions and group behavior play out within and between species, and how these factors all combine to determine ecosystem functioning.
The third core idea, LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits across generations, focuses on the flow of genetic information between generations. This idea explains the mechanisms of genetic inheritance and describes the environmental and genetic causes of gene mutation and the alteration of gene expression.
The fourth core idea, LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity, explores “changes in the traits of populations of organisms over time”  and the factors that account for species’ unity and diversity alike. The section