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Entomology

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Entomology (from Greek entomos, "that which is cut in pieces or engraved/segmented", hence "insect"; and -logia) is the scientific study of insects, a branch of arthropodology, which in turn is a branch of biology. At some 1.3 million described species, insects account for more than two-thirds of all known organisms, date back some 400 million years, and have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on earth. 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, land snails, 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 there is a focus on insect related inquiries 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, mathematics, anthropology, robotics, agriculture, nutrition, forensic science, and more.

History of entomologyEdit

See also: Timeline of entomology

Entomology is rooted in nearly all human cultures from prehistoric times, primarily in the context of agriculture (especially 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, Jean-Henri Fabre, 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 in popular cultureEdit

Gil Grissom on the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV show is an entomologist, who is played by actor William Petersen. Similarly, entomologist Jack Hodgins of Bones, portrayed by TJ Thyne, helps his team by analyzing insects (such as Hydrotaea) and "particulates" near to or attached to decomposed victims, often identifying the precise location a murder originally occurred; he is also an expert in botany and mineralogy.

In Arthur Conan Doyle's story, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the villain is a naturalist who collects butterflies, making him an "evil" entomologist.

The Aubrey–Maturin sea novels of Patrick O'Brian have frequent appearances by Sir Joseph Blaine, a Royal Navy intelligence official who is also an avid entomologist. He recruits Dr. Stephen Maturin, one of the principal characters, as a spy. Their conferences on espionage activities invariably make room for their shared interest in naturalist studies.

There are numerous science fiction books which have plots based on humans becoming smaller and having to deal with insects at their level. Some examples are The Insect Warriors by Rex Dean Levie, Atta by Francis Rufus Bellamy, Bug Park by James P. Hogan, The Micronauts series by Gordon Williams, and The Forgotten Planet by Murray Leinster. The Forgotten Planets plot is twisted in that the insects are the size of men (or larger) on a planet "seeded" to prepare it for human habitation. Robert Asprin wrote The Bug Wars, a novel about war between reptiles and insects on an interplanetary scale.

There are quite a few films about insects, or at least prominently featuring them. Widespread attitudes of revulsion and fear toward insects are often exploited by Horror and Science Fiction films through insect/insect-like monsters (Them! is a famous early example), or by showing humans transformed into (The Fly) or attacked by insects. Another more positive type of insect film is animation with anthropomorphized insects as characters.

Identification of insectsEdit

Most insects can easily be recognized to order such as Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) or Coleoptera (beetles). However, insects other than Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are typically identifiable to genus or species 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 characteristics separating them are unfamiliar, and often subtle (or invisible without a microscope), this is often very difficult even for a specialist. This has led to the development of automated species identification systems targeted on insects, for example, [[Digital_Automated_Identification_System_(DAISY), ABIS, SPIDA and Draw-wing

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

Taxonomic specializationEdit

File:Beetle collection.jpg

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:

OrganizationsEdit

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


See alsoEdit


Further readingEdit

  • 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.
  • Capinera, JL (editor). 2008. Encyclopedia of Entomology, 2nd Edition. Springer. ISBN 1-4020-6242-7.

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