Herpetology
Overview
 
Herpetology is the branch of zoology
Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

 concerned with the study of amphibian
Amphibian
Amphibians , are a class of vertebrate animals including animals such as toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are characterized as non-amniote ectothermic tetrapods...

s (including frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s, toad
Toad
A toad is any of a number of species of amphibians in the order Anura characterized by dry, leathery skin , short legs, and snoat-like parotoid glands...

s, salamander
Salamander
Salamander is a common name of approximately 500 species of amphibians. They are typically characterized by a superficially lizard-like appearance, with their slender bodies, short noses, and long tails. All known fossils and extinct species fall under the order Caudata, while sometimes the extant...

s, newt
Newt
A newt is an aquatic amphibian of the family Salamandridae, although not all aquatic salamanders are considered newts. Newts are classified in the subfamily Pleurodelinae of the family Salamandridae, and are found in North America, Europe and Asia...

s, and gymnophiona) and reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s (including snake
Snake
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...

s, lizard
Lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

s, amphisbaenids
Amphisbaenia
The Amphisbaenia are a usually legless suborder of squamates closely related to lizards and snakes. As many species possess a pink body coloration and scales arranged in rings, they have a superficial resemblance to earthworms. They are very poorly understood, due to their burrowing lifestyle...

, turtle
Turtle
Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines , characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield...

s, terrapin
Terrapin
A terrapin is a turtle living in fresh or brackish water.Terrapin may also refer to:* Terrapin , a transport vehicle used for amphibious assault by the Allies during the Second World War...

s, tortoise
Tortoise
Tortoises are a family of land-dwelling reptiles of the order of turtles . Like their marine cousins, the sea turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise...

s, crocodilia
Crocodilia
Crocodilia is an order of large reptiles that appeared about 84 million years ago in the late Cretaceous Period . They are the closest living relatives of birds, as the two groups are the only known survivors of the Archosauria...

ns, and the tuatara
Tuatara
The tuatara is a reptile endemic to New Zealand which, though it resembles most lizards, is actually part of a distinct lineage, order Sphenodontia. The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago. Their most recent common...

s). Batrachology is a further subdiscipline of herpetology concerned with the study of amphibians alone.

Herpetology is concerned with poikilothermic, ectothermic tetrapods. Under this definition "herps" (or sometimes "herptiles" or "herpetofauna") exclude fish, but it is not uncommon for herpetological and ichthyological
Ichthyology
Ichthyology is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish. This includes skeletal fish , cartilaginous fish , and jawless fish...

 scientific societies to "team up", publishing joint journals and holding conferences in order to foster the exchange of ideas between the fields.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
Herpetology is the branch of zoology
Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

 concerned with the study of amphibian
Amphibian
Amphibians , are a class of vertebrate animals including animals such as toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are characterized as non-amniote ectothermic tetrapods...

s (including frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s, toad
Toad
A toad is any of a number of species of amphibians in the order Anura characterized by dry, leathery skin , short legs, and snoat-like parotoid glands...

s, salamander
Salamander
Salamander is a common name of approximately 500 species of amphibians. They are typically characterized by a superficially lizard-like appearance, with their slender bodies, short noses, and long tails. All known fossils and extinct species fall under the order Caudata, while sometimes the extant...

s, newt
Newt
A newt is an aquatic amphibian of the family Salamandridae, although not all aquatic salamanders are considered newts. Newts are classified in the subfamily Pleurodelinae of the family Salamandridae, and are found in North America, Europe and Asia...

s, and gymnophiona) and reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s (including snake
Snake
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...

s, lizard
Lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

s, amphisbaenids
Amphisbaenia
The Amphisbaenia are a usually legless suborder of squamates closely related to lizards and snakes. As many species possess a pink body coloration and scales arranged in rings, they have a superficial resemblance to earthworms. They are very poorly understood, due to their burrowing lifestyle...

, turtle
Turtle
Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines , characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield...

s, terrapin
Terrapin
A terrapin is a turtle living in fresh or brackish water.Terrapin may also refer to:* Terrapin , a transport vehicle used for amphibious assault by the Allies during the Second World War...

s, tortoise
Tortoise
Tortoises are a family of land-dwelling reptiles of the order of turtles . Like their marine cousins, the sea turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise...

s, crocodilia
Crocodilia
Crocodilia is an order of large reptiles that appeared about 84 million years ago in the late Cretaceous Period . They are the closest living relatives of birds, as the two groups are the only known survivors of the Archosauria...

ns, and the tuatara
Tuatara
The tuatara is a reptile endemic to New Zealand which, though it resembles most lizards, is actually part of a distinct lineage, order Sphenodontia. The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago. Their most recent common...

s). Batrachology is a further subdiscipline of herpetology concerned with the study of amphibians alone.

Herpetology is concerned with poikilothermic, ectothermic tetrapods. Under this definition "herps" (or sometimes "herptiles" or "herpetofauna") exclude fish, but it is not uncommon for herpetological and ichthyological
Ichthyology
Ichthyology is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish. This includes skeletal fish , cartilaginous fish , and jawless fish...

 scientific societies to "team up", publishing joint journals and holding conferences in order to foster the exchange of ideas between the fields. One of the most prestigious organizations, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists is an international organization devoted to the scientific studies of ichthyology and herpetology...

, is an example of this. Many herpetological societies exist today, having been formed to promote interest in reptiles and amphibians both captive and wild.

Herpetology offers benefits to humanity in the study of the role of amphibians and reptiles in global ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

, especially because amphibians are often very sensitive to environmental changes, offering a visible warning to humans that significant changes are taking place. Some toxins and venoms produced by reptiles and amphibians are useful in human medicine. Currently, some snake venom has been used to create anti-coagulants that work to treat stroke victims and heart attack cases.

The word "herpetology" is from Greek: ἑρπήτόν, herpeton, "creeping animal" and , -logia
-logy
-logy is a suffix in the English language, used with words originally adapted from Ancient Greek language ending in -λογία...

. People with an avid interest in herpetology and who keep different reptiles or amphibians often refer to themselves as "herpers".

"Herp" is a vernacular term for reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s and amphibian
Amphibian
Amphibians , are a class of vertebrate animals including animals such as toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are characterized as non-amniote ectothermic tetrapods...

s. It is derived from the old term "herpetile", with roots back to Linnaeus' classification of animals, in which he grouped reptiles and amphibians together in the same class. There are over 6700 species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of amphibians and over 9000 species of reptiles. In spite of its modern taxonomic irrelevance, the term has persisted, particularly in the names of herpetology, the scientific study of reptiles and amphibians, and herpetoculture
Herpetoculture
Herpetoculture is the keeping of live reptiles and amphibians in captivity, whether as a hobby or as a commercial breeding operation. "Herps" is an informal term that refers to both reptiles and amphibians...

, the captive care and breeding of reptiles and amphibians.

Careers

There are many careers in the field of herpetology. These include, but are not limited to, field research, public and private breeding, zoological staff or curating, museum staff or curating and college teaching.

Those wishing to pursue a career in herpetology must have a strong science and math background. Few universities offer this program, and thus it is a highly competitive field.

In modern academic science, it is rare for individuals to consider themselves a herpetologist first and foremost. Most individuals focus on a particular field such as ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

, evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, taxonomy
Taxonomy
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

, physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, or molecular biology
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

, and within that field ask questions pertaining to or best answered by examining reptiles and amphibians. For example, an evolutionary biologist who is also a herpetologist may choose to work on how warning coloration evolved in coral snake
Coral snake
The coral snakes are a large group of elapid snakes that can be subdivided into two distinct groups, Old World coral snakes and New World coral snakes...

s.

Further reading

  • Kraig Adler (1989) Contributions to the History of Herpetology, Society for the study of amphibians and reptiles.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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