Guide to the Branches of Zoology

Zoology is the biological discipline that involves the study of animals. There are several different branches of the discipline that focus on particular types of animal or else on aspects of the functioning or behaviour of the particular animal species that is being studied. Within the discipline there are also a variety of more general biological approaches that can are used in studying the animals. This article will give an overview of the main branches of zoology and the methods that cut across those branches.

One branch of zoology is known as arachnology. This is the study of arachnids such as spiders and scorpions, for example. Another branch is called cetology, which studies the species of the order Cetacea. These include aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins, for instance. Entomology is the study of insects generally. When referring specifically to bees, the term apiology is used instead. Myrmecology, meanwhile, is used more specifically for the study of ants.

The study of reptiles and amphibians is known as Herpetology, whilst icthyology is the scientific study of fish. If the study is of mammals in general it is known as mammalogy. Primatology looks more specifically than this, focussing in on primates such as apes and monkeys, for example. Ornithology, one of the better-known branches of zoology, is the study of birds.

But there are also branches that cut across the species groupings. Ethology, for example, is the general study of animal behaviour. Anthrozoology, meanwhile, is the interdisciplinary study of human-animal interaction. The neural mechanisms underlying natural animal behaviour are studied in a discipline known as neuroethology. Paleozoology studies the animals of prehistory, such as dinosaurs, sabre-toothed tigers, and woolly mammoths, for example. Research here is aimed at identifying the species under study from their remains and then trying to reconstruct their environments and their ecosystems.

Within the various branches of zoology there are numerous biological approaches that can be used. One example is that of the study of the physical structure of animals. This can be pursued through anatomy, physiology, and embryology, for instance. Another approach looks at genetic and developmental questions. This approach uses the methods of molecular biology, molecular genetics, and developmental biology. Evolutionary biology, meanwhile, looks at the evolution of the animal species under investigation. A variety of methods, including biogeography, cladistics, phylogenetics, phylogeography, systematics, and taxonomy can all be used in an effort to determine the correct classification of an animal species.