Zoology Essay

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Zoology is an area of biology that deals with the study of the animal kingdom (or Animalia). One purpose of zoology is to analyze and classify animals. Documents in the Hippocratic Collection state that the earliest attempts to classify animals originated in 400 B.C.E. Hippocrates arranged animals according to their habitat and mode of reproduction; in his Historia Animalim, he noted developmental stages of fish and aquatic animals, and studied sexual and asexual reproduction. During Roman times, Pliny the Elder compiled Historia Naturalis, a collection of folklore, superstition, and myth that was widely read in the Middle Ages. The Greek physician Galen, who dissected mammals and accurately described their internal features, produced another influential work.

Modern classification of animals began sometime in the 17th and 18th centuries. A system of nomenclature that we still use today-the binomial system of genus and species-was developed by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who also established taxonomy as a discipline when he classified animals according to their teeth and toes, and classified birds according to the shape of their beaks. In the 17th century, English scientist Robert Hooke introduced the word cell, and after this, the field of embryology evolved. Scientific expeditions dedicated to studying animal life began in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Today, zoology has diversified as a field of science. With new technologies and discoveries, zoology has branched into subjects like biochemistry, genetics, and ecology. These fields deal with different areas of science and apply the acquired knowledge to study the animal kingdom. The main branches of zoology are taxonomy, physiology, and morphology.

Taxonomy deals with animal life based on different divisions. For example, the study of animals with backbones is classified under vertebrate zoology, which is further divided into herpetology, ichthyology, mammalogy, and ornithology. The study of animals that deals with multicellular animals without backbones is called invertebrate zoology, which is further divided into malacology and entomology. Taxonomic groups also subdivide paleontology, a field that deals with fossils. These subdivisions of zoology are aimed at studying the life cycle, distribution, classification, and evolutionary history of a group of animals of a particular animal. Most zoologists specialize in one of these fields and dedicate their research in that specific area.

Physiology deals with the function of body organs. If physiology deals with cellular functions, it is called cellular physiology and is closely connected to molecular biology. A study that deals with the physical connection of animals with their environment is called physiological ecology. This field aims to study animals in different environments like deserts, oceans, and the arctic.

Another study that examines full structures and systems, such as bones, brain, and muscles is called morphology, which generally includes gross morphology. The study that deals with body tissues at the microscopic level is called histology. Cytology examines cells and how cellular components function. With the advent of powerful machines like the electron microscope and the scanning tunneling electron microscope, cytology has made tremendous progress in the field of researching structural detail at levels of high magnification. Methods have been invented for studying neural networks inside the brain, and even studying individual impulses from specific brain areas and even individual brain cells.

The capstone field of zoology is called evolutionary zoology; it is connected to all of the above fields. Evolutionary zoology examines how an animal evolves-through speciation and adaptation-and what happens to the animal in the future as a result.


  1. Cleveland P. Hickman, Jr., Larry S. Roberts, Allan Larson, and Helen I’Anson, Integrated Principles of Zoology (McGraw-Hill Science/Engineering/Math, 2005);
  2. Stephen A. Miller and John P. Harley, Zoology (McGraw-Hill Science/Engineering/Math, 2004).

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