entomology

entomology

[en-tuh-mol-uh-jee]
entomology, study of insects, an arthropod class that comprises about 900,000 known species, representing about three fourths of all the classified animal species. Insects are studied because of their importance as pollinators for fruit crops; as carriers of bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases; as parasites of humans or livestock; as destroyers of economically important plants; or as predators of other destructive insects. The role of insects in ecosystems and their control by insecticides or by biological methods are studied in ecology. Some insects such as the fruit fly, Drosophila, are used in the laboratory to study genetics; others are used to study behavior and physiology. The ability to increase productivity of insect populations that supply commercially important products such as dyes, silk, and honey and the deliberate introduction of insect diseases into populations of insect pests involves knowledge of microbiology and biochemistry as well as entomology.

Branch of zoology dealing with the scientific study of insects, including their taxonomy, morphology, physiology, and ecology. Applied aspects of entomology, such as the harmful and beneficial impact of insects on humans, are also studied.

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Entomology (from Greek ἔντομος, entomos, "that which is cut in pieces or engraved/segmented", hence "insect"; and -λογία, -logia) is the scientific study of insects. At some 1.3 million described species, insects account for more than 2/3rds of all known organisms,dating back some 400 million years, and have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on earth, so it is an important specialty within biology. Though technically incorrect, the definition is sometimes widened to include the study of terrestrial animals in other arthropod groups or other phyla, such as arachnids, myriapods, earthworms, and slugs.

Like several of the other fields that are categorized within zoology, entomology is a taxon-based category; any form of scientific study in which the organisms studied happen to be insects is, by definition, entomology. Entomology therefore includes a cross-section of topics as diverse as molecular genetics, behavior, biomechanics, biochemistry, systematics, physiology, developmental biology, ecology, morphology, paleontology, anthropology, robotics, agriculture, nutrition, and more.

History of entomology

Entomology is rooted in nearly all human cultures from prehistoric times, primarily in the context of agriculture (esp. biological control and beekeeping), but scientific study began only as recently as the 16th century.

The list of entomologists through recorded history is enormous, and includes such notable figures as Charles Darwin, Vladimir Nabokov, Karl von Frisch (winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson.

Entomology has even entered popular modern culture. Gil Grissom on the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV show is an entomologist, who is played by actor William Petersen. Similarly, Dr. Jack Hodgins of Bones helps his team by analyzing insects and "particulates" near to or attached to decomposed victims, often identifying the precise location a murder originally occurred; he allegedly has three Ph.D.'s, at least one of which is in entomology.

Identification of insects

Insects other than Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are typically identifiable only through the use of Identification keys and Monographs. Because the class Insecta contains a very large number of species (over 330,000 species of beetles alone) and the characters separating them are unfamiliar, and often subtle (or invisible without a microscope), this is often very difficult even for a specialist.

Insect identification is an increasingly common hobby, with butterflies and dragonflies being the most popular.

Taxonomic specialization

Many entomologists specialize in a single order or even a family of insects, and a number of these subspecialties are given their own informal names, typically (but not always) derived from the scientific name of the group:

Organizations

Like other scientific specialties, entomologists have a number of local, national, and international organizations. There are also many organizations specializing in specific subareas.

Museums

Many museums contain very large and important insect collections. Here is a list of some of the most important.

Africa

  • Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Europe

United States

Canada

See also

For further reading

  • Chiang, H.C. and G. C. Jahn 1996. Entomology in the Cambodia-IRRI-Australia Project. (in Chinese) Chinese Entomol. Soc. Newsltr. (Taiwan) 3: 9-11.
  • Davidson, E. 2006. Big Fleas Have Little Fleas: How Discoveries of Invertebrate Diseases Are Advancing Modern Science University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 208 pages, ISBN 0-8165-2544-7.
  • Triplehorn, Charles A. and Norman F. Johnson (2005-05-19). Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th edition, Thomas Brooks/Cole. ISBN 0-03-096835-6. — a classic textbook in North America.
  • Grimaldi, D. & Engel, M.S. (2005). Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82149-5.
  • Capinera, JL (editor). 2008. Encyclopedia of Entomology, 2nd Edition. Springer. ISBN 1-402-06242-7.

External links

Academic institutions

Footnotes

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