Zoology is the study of animals, a complex discipline that draws upon a diverse body of scientific observation and theory. It can be broken down into numerous sub-disciplines: ornithology (the study of birds), primatology (the study of primates), ichthyology (the study of fish), and entomology (the study of insects), to name a few. As a whole, zoology encompasses a fascinating and important body of knowledge that enables us to better understand animals, wildlife, our environment, and ourselves
To embark upon the task of defining zoology, we explore the following three questions:
- How do we study animals?
- How do we name and classify animals?
- How do we organize the knowledge we acquire about animals?
How Animals Are Studies
Zoology, like all areas of science, is shaped by the scientific method. The scientific method--a series of steps that scientists take in order to acquire, test, and characterize the natural world--is the process by which zoologists study animals.
How Animals Are Classified
Taxonomy, the study of the classification and nomenclature of living things, enables us to assign names to animals and to group them into meaningful categories. Living things are classified into a hierarchy of groups, the highest level being the kingdom, followed by the phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. There are five kingdoms of living things: plants, animals, fungi, monera, and Protista. Zoology, the study of animals, focuses on those organisms in the animal kingdom.
Organizing Our Knowledge of Animals
Zoological information can be organized into a hierarchy of topics that focus on different levels of organization: the molecular or cellular level, the individual organism level, the population level, the species level, the community level, the ecosystem level, and so forth. Each level aims to describe animal life from a different perspective.