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What is Zoology?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Zoology is the scientific study of the characteristics and classification of animals. It is one of the branches of biology, and therefore it is also referred to as animal biology. There are several sub-branches within this field, including ethology, zoography, and anthrozoology. Additionally, zoologists often specialize in the study of specific types of animals. For instance, an ornithologist studies birds, while a mammologist studies mammals. As zoology is a very interdisciplinary subject, there are a number of related fields, including taxonomy, paleontology, and evolutionary biology.

Sub-Branches

Common sub-branches of zoology include zoography, ethology, paleozoology, and anthrozoology. Zoography is the description of animals and the environments in which they live. These descriptions are often extremely detailed, and may also include information about the animal's behavior or eating habits. A related subfield is ethology, which is the study of animal behavior. Ethologists tend to focus more on behavior characteristics rather than specific types of animals, and may study many different species. Common behaviors studied include imprinting, aggression, emotion, and communication.

Another sub-branch is paleozoology, which is the study of animals that have been declared extinct. This includes animals like dinosaurs, but also things like certain fish and insects that have closer counterparts in modern times. The findings from this type of research are used to understand the physiology and behavior of extinct animals, but also for gaining insight into modern animal that descended from extinct ones. Cryptozoology, another subfield, attempts to reveal the existence of animals that are only rumored to exist, such as the Loch Ness monster and yeti. Cryptozoologists, however, may also do field studies if an animal declared extinct previously has been rediscovered.

Some zoologists choose to focus on the study of how humans and animals interact. This is called anthrozoology, and can include the study of how animals were domesticated, how humans think about animals, and the bonds formed between humans and animals. It's often connected with studies of animal rights, ethology, and psychology. Other researchers in anthrozoology focus on veterinary medicine, or on how animals can be used in therapy for humans.

Related Fields

One of the most closely related fields to zoology is taxonomy, which is the practice of classifying different types of organisms according to shared characteristics. There are specific organizational structures that animals are put into, usually starting with superfamilies, and ending with subspecies. This field is also related to systematics, in which zoologists classify animals based on their genus or species.

Another related field is evolutionary biology. When done in the context of zoology, this field entails studying how animals originally evolved and how they changed over time. This is often closely connected with paleozoology. Ecology and environmental studies are also related subjects, particularly zoography and ethology.

Working as a Zoologist

Some universities offer a bachelor’s degree program in zoology, but people can also become zoologists through graduate work. Generally speaking, a person needs to have a bachelor's degree in a field like biology or chemistry before applying for graduate studies in this area. The area a zoologist specializes in often determines his or her work environment. Zoologists can and do work in zoos, but they can also conduct field research and laboratory research. They can also make plans for pest control or raising livestock, or provide insight into the best way to deal with an invasive species or clean up an ecosystem. Some zoologists also work as teachers or guides, educating people in zoos or other places about animals and their living environments.

History

Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations had medical knowledge about animals, but most early zoological studies were mystical rather than practical. The Greek physician Hippocrates and the philosopher Aristotle were both involved with early zoology. Hippocrates primarily focused on the physiology of animals, while Aristotle shaped the four pillars of zoology: anatomy, taxonomy, genetics, and physiology. Other prominent figures include the British field biologist Charles Darwin, whose works led to the increased understanding of the interrelationship between humans and animals, and Thomas Henry Huxley, an anatomist who is best known for as a proponent of Darwin's theory of evolution as well as his research into ape and human ethology.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon351865 — On Oct 17, 2013

How many types of zoologists are there in the entire world?

By anon288081 — On Aug 28, 2012

Is a zoologist the same basic thing as a veterinarian? I have wanted to be a vet for years, but now I have an interest in zoology.

By anon261507 — On Apr 16, 2012

Are there many jobs available in this field in America?

By anon257063 — On Mar 25, 2012

Is there any future in zoology? That means a job with a good salary.

By anon249976 — On Feb 23, 2012

Do zoology people work with,like, lion cubs?

By anon246060 — On Feb 07, 2012

So, say I wanted to be a Zoologist, but I only wanted to work with, say, dolphins? What exactly would I be doing? Studying them? Studying their cells? Please reply!

By anon119824 — On Oct 19, 2010

does a zoologist take care of the animals, like when they are sick? I want to be a zoologist but i also want to take care of animals.

By anon106496 — On Aug 25, 2010

when was zoology discovered? I'm a freshman doing an assignment on zoology.

By anon83360 — On May 10, 2010

who would pay for you to actually study zoology and I think you should be explaining the depth of zoology more!

By anon63440 — On Feb 01, 2010

If I cut something in half and both sides look exactly alike, what do you call it?

By anon53585 — On Nov 22, 2009

what is the importance of zoology?

By anon53584 — On Nov 22, 2009

what are the other sciences related to zoology?

By anon49182 — On Oct 18, 2009

can you please write some important discoveries that have helped mankind because i just don't think that you are explaining zoology enough.

By anon35572 — On Jul 06, 2009

does zoology have a lot of travel opprotunties

By sofia3370 — On Mar 26, 2009

Can a zoologist only work with dolphins, as a dolphin trainer and care?

By anon28532 — On Mar 18, 2009

What other organizations depend on zoology?

What are the skills shortages and skills surplus in zoology?

By anon18272 — On Sep 18, 2008

Vet Medicine is the equivalent of being a human doctor. they diagnose, treat, prevent, perform surgeries...etc. starting salaries are in the 6 digit range. it can take up to 8 years of schooling, if you get into a vet program (only 28 schools in america have a vet program, i suggest looking at Texas A&M)

Zoology is the study of animals. you can become specialized in a certain field or classification.

Besides dealing with animals, vet med and zoology go off onto different paths

By anon16156 — On Jul 30, 2008

What is the differences between Veterinary Medicine and Zoology? Which would be better to go to school for?

By anon2194 — On Jul 02, 2007

what are the job opportunities for the zoologist generally, or in a country like nigeria?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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