Are viruses the only non-living entity studied in biology


Biology is the study of living things and all living things are on the tree of life.

Viruses are not on the tree of life because they are not alive (I realize this is debatable). So are viruses the only non-living entity studied in biology, the field of living things?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

In: 1

There are also prions. Misfolded proteins that can mess up tissue around them. You can’t kill them, cook them out, poison them. They can also remain in tissue that was preserved years prior.

If, for argument’s sake, we accept that viruses are non-living, prions, being merely bits of misfolded proteins, are even further along the non-living scale, and they are studied by biologists, usually by medical researchers.

Biologists study both living and non-living things, including viruses. While viruses cannot carry out the basic functions of life on their own, they do have some traits of living things and can definitely have a significant impact on the health of living things. As others have mentioned, prions also fit this mold.

It may be a stretch, but biologists also study many non-living things in our ecosystem that greatly impact us like minerals and soil.

Prions are also non-living things studied by biology. They are misfolded proteins that attach to other proteins and misfold them in the same way.

There is also some debate as to whether or not a virus is alive. The main argument against it is that it can’t reproduce with its own machinery, but has to hijack a cell to make more of itself, where as bacteria have all the parts they need to make more of themselves.

The easy answer is “Why would we make a whole new branch of science just for prions and viruses?” Because the interactions that take place with viruses in prions use mechanisms that biologists already study, and a chemist would need to learn a whole lot of biology to understand what’s going on in the same way.