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Zoology, (officially pronounced , colloquially pronounced ) occasionally also spelled zoölogy, is the branch of biology that focuses on the structure, function, behavior, and evolution of animals.


Main articles: History of zoology , History of zoology

Humans have been fascinated by the other members of the animal kingdom throughout history. In early Europe, they gathered up and treasured stories of strange animals from distant lands or deep seas, such as are recorded in the Physiologus and in the works of Albertus Magnus.

The disciplinary study of zoology also found root in Arabia and Chinamarker. Afro-Arab scholarAl-Jahiz (781–868) wrote the Book of Animals, a predecessor to The Origin of Species. Two great Chinese authors in this field were Su Song (1020-1101) and Shen Kuo(1031-1095) of the Song Dynasty period, yet there were many others.

Scientific zoology really started in the 16th century with the awakening of the new spirit of observation and exploration, but for a long time ran a separate course uninfluenced by the progress of the medical studies of anatomy and physiology. The spirit of inquiry which now for the first time became general showed itself in the anatomical schools of the Italianmarker of the 16th century, and spread fifty years later to Oxfordmarker.

The first founded of surviving European academies, the Academia Naturae Curiosorum (1651) especially confined itself to the description and illustration of the structure of plants and animals; eleven years later, the Royal Society of London was incorporated by royal charter.

A little later the Academy of Sciences of Parismarker was established by Louis XIV. Whilst the race of collectors and systematisers culminated in the latter part of the 18th century in Linnaeus, other anatomists such as John Hunter also set to work to examine anatomically the whole animal kingdom, and to classify its members by aid of the results of such profound study. Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch tailor and naturalist, introduced another revolution of sorts: the microscope.

It was not until the 19th century that the microscope was perfected and accomplished for zoology its final and most important service. The perfecting of the microscope led to a full comprehension of the great doctrine of cell structure and the establishment of the Cell Theory:

  1. That all organisms are either single cells or built up of many cells;
  2. That all organisms begin their individual existence as a single cell, which multiplies by binary fission, the products growing in size and multiplying similarly by binary fission; and
  3. That the life of a multicellular organism is the sum of the activities of the corpuscular units of which it consists, and that the processes of life must be studied in and their explanation obtained from an understanding of the chemical and physical changes which go on in each individual corpuscle or unit of living material or protoplasm.

Systems of classification

Morphography is the systematic exploration, tabulation, and characterization of data concerning animals, existing or extinct. It is similar to ethnography. Groups of people who have contributed to the field include past museum-makers of and their modern descendants, the curators and annotators of zoological collections, early explorer and modern naturalist travelers and writers collectors of fossils and paleontologists.

Subfields of zoology

Although the study of animal life is ancient, its scientific incarnation is relatively modern. This mirrors the transition from natural history to biology at the start of the nineteenth century. Since Hunter and Cuvier, comparative anatomical study has been associated with morphography shapins the modern areas of zoological investigation: anatomy, physiology, histology, embryology, and animal behavior. Modern zoology first arose in German and British universities. In Britain, Thomas Henry Huxley was a prominent figure. His ideas were centered on the morphology of animals. Many consider him the greatest comparative anatomist of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Similar to Hunter, his courses were composed of lectures and laboratory practical classes in contrast the previous format of lectures only. This system became widely spread.

Gradually zoology expanded beyond Huxley's comparative anatomy to include the following sub-disciplines:

  1. Zoography, also known as descriptive zoology, describes animals and their habitats.
  2. Comparative anatomy studies the structure of animals.
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Molecular Biology studies the common genetic and developmental mechanisms of animals and plants
  5. Ethology is the study of animal behavior.
  6. Behavioral ecology
  7. Evolutionary biology: See of both animals and plants is considered in the articles on evolution, population genetics, heredity, variation, Mendelism,reproduction.
  8. Systematics, cladistics, phylogenetics, phylogeography, biogeography and taxonomy classify and group species via common descent and regional associations.
  9. The various taxonomically-oriented disciplines such as mammalogy, herpetology, ornithology identify and classify species, and study the structures and mechanisms specific to those groups. Entomology is the study of insects, by far the largest group of animals.
  10. Palaeontology

Notable zoologists

In alphabetical order by surname:

See also


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