, "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
, 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
) are typically identifiable only through the use of Identification keys
. Because the class Insecta
contains a very large number of species (over 330,000 species
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.
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:
Like other scientific specialties, entomologists have a number of local, national, and international organizations. There are also many organizations specializing in specific subareas.
Many museums contain very large and important insect collections. Here is a list of some of the most important.
- Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
- Natural History Museum, Vienna Naturhistorisches Museum
- Natural History Museum, Paris Muséum national d'histoire naturelle
- Natural History Museum, Berlin Humboldt Museum
- Natural History Museum, London Natural History Museum
- Royal Museum for Central Africa, Brussels Royal Museum for Central Africa
- Natural History Museum, Leiden Natural History Museum, Leiden
- Natural History Museum, Sweden Swedish Museum of Natural History
- Natural History Museum, St. Petersburg Zoological Collection of the Russian Academy of Science
- Natural History Museum, Geneva
- The Bavarian State Collection of Zoology Zoologische Staatssammlung München
- National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC
- American Museum of Natural History, New York
- California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
- Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
- Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles
- Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia
- University of Kansas Natural History Museum, Lawrence, KS
- University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, NE
- Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven
- Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, MA
- McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, University of Florida
- Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
- Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa
- Montreal Insectarium, Montreal
- University of Guelph Insect Collection, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
- Lyman Entomological Museum, McGill University, Montreal
- Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes, Ottawa
- E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum, Edmonton
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.