Review some fundamental characteristics of living things. Challenge yourself to apply them to viruses (or not!). Then, think about why it even matters to classify a virus as a living thing or an inanimate object.
What makes something alive? What must it be able to do? Write down a list of the most essential elements. Check your list by seeing if it works to describe a wide variety of living things and excludes a wide variety of non-living things.
Describe viruses based on your set of criteria. Does this suggest they are alive or not?
What about a parasite? Or an obligate symbiote (an animal that MUST live in connection with another)?
Now let’s learn a bit more about viruses…
Relatively recently, scientists were surprised to discover viruses so large they are the same size as some bacteria. Might this large size give them the features of other living things? Read this article about giant viruses and see what you think!
Scientists are also puzzled by viruses that infect other viruses. Can a nonliving thing invade another nonliving thing or should we reframe what we think of as being alive? Read more about virophage and make up your own mind.
Did anything in the articles change your mind? Do you want to modify your list of what makes something alive or adjust your understanding of viruses in some way?