Cells are the basic unit of life
Genes are the basic unit of heredity
New species and inherited traits are the product of evolution
An organism regulates its internal environment to maintain a stable and constant condition
Living organisms consume and transform energy
Subdisciplines of biology are defined by the scale at which organisms are studied and the methods used to study them: biochemistry examines the rudimentary chemistry of life; molecular biology studies the complex interactions among biological molecules; cellular biology examines the basic building block of all life, the cell; physiology examines the physical and chemical functions of tissues, organs, and organ systems of an organism; evolutionary biology examines the processes that produced the diversity of life; and ecology examines how organisms interact in their environment.
Main article: History of biology
Ernst Haeckel's Tree of Life (1879)
The term biology is derived from the Greek word βίος, bios, "life" and the suffix -λογία, -logia, "study of." The Latin form of the term first appeared in 1736 when Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) used biologi in his Bibliotheca botanica. It was used again in 1766 in a work entitled Philosophiae naturalis sive physicae: tomus III, continens geologian, biologian, phytologian generalis, by Michael Christoph Hanov, a disciple of Christian Wolff. The first German use, Biologie, was used in a 1771 translation of Linnaeus' work. In 1797, Theodor Georg Roose used the term in a book, Grundzüge der Lehre van der Lebenskraft, in the preface. Karl Friedrich Burdach used the term in 1800 in a more restricted sense of the study of human beings from a morphological, physiological and psychological perspective (Propädeutik zum Studien der gesammten Heilkunst). The term came into its modern usage with the six-volume treatise Biologie, oder Philosophie der lebenden Natur (1802–22) by Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, who announced:
The objects of our research will be the different forms and manifestations of life, the conditions and laws under which these phenomena occur, and the causes through which they have been effected. The science that concerns itself with these objects we will indicate by the name biology [Biologie] or the doctrine of life
Although modern biology is a relatively recent development, sciences related to and included within it have been studied since ancient times. Natural philosophy was studied as early as the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indian subcontinent, and China. However, the origins of modern biology and its approach to the study of nature are most often traced back to ancient Greece. While the formal study of medicine dates back to Hippocrates (ca. 460 BC – ca. 370 BC), it was Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) who contributed most extensively to the development of biology. Especially important are his History of Animals and other works where he showed naturalist leanings, and later more empirical works that focused on biological causation and the diversity of life. Aristotle's successor at the Lyceum, Theophrastus, wrote a series of books on botany that survived as the most important contribution of antiquity to the plant sciences, even into the Middle Ages.
Scholars of the medieval Islamic world who wrote on biology included al-Jahiz (781–869), Al-Dinawari (828–896), who wrote on botany, and Rhazes (865–925) who wrote on anatomy and physiology. Medicine was especially well studied by Islamic scholars working in Greek philosopher traditions, while natural history drew heavily on Aristotelian thought, especially in upholding a fixed hierarchy of life.
Biology began to quickly develop and grow with Antony van Leeuwenhoek's improvement of the microscope. It was then that scholars discovered spermatozoa, bacteria, infusoria and the diversity of microscopic life. Investigations by Jan Swammerdam led to new interest in entomology and helped to develop the basic techniques of microscopic dissection and staining.
Advances in microscopy also had a profound impact on biological thinking. In the early 19th century, a number of biologists pointed to the central importance of the cell. Then, in 1838, Schleiden and Schwann began promoting the now universal ideas that the basic unit of organisms is the cell and that individual cells have all the characteristics of life, although they opposed the idea that (3) all cells come from the division of other cells. Thanks to the work of Robert Remak and Rudolf Virchow, however, by the 1860s most biologists accepted all three tenets of what came to be known as cell theory.
Meanwhile, taxonomy and classification became the focus of natural historians. Carl Linnaeus published a basic taxonomy for the natural world in 1735 (variations of which have been in use ever since), and in the 1750s introduced scientific names for all his species. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, treated species as artificial categories and living forms as malleable—even suggesting the possibility of common descent. Though he was opposed to evolution, Buffon is a key figure in the history of evolutionary thought; his work influenced the evolutionary theories of both Lamarck and Darwin.
Serious evolutionary thinking originated with the works of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who was the first to present a coherent theory of evolution. He posited that evolution was the result of environmental stress on properties of animals, meaning that the more frequently and rigorously an organ was used, the more complex and efficient it would become, thus adapting the animal to its environment. Lamarck believed that these acquired traits could then be passed on to the animal's offspring, who would further develop and perfect them. However, it was the British naturalist Charles Darwin, combining the biogeographical approach of Humboldt, the uniformitarian geology of Lyell, Malthus's writings on population growth, and his own morphological expertise and extensive natural observations, who forged a more successful evolutionary theory based on natural selection; similar reasoning and evidence led Alfred Russel Wallace to independently reach the same conclusions. Although it was the subject of controversy (which continues to this day), Darwin's theory quickly spread through the scientific community and soon became a central axiom of the rapidly developing science of biology.
The discovery of the physical representation of heredity came along with evolutionary principles and population genetics. In the 1940s and early 1950s, experiments pointed to DNA as the component of chromosomes that held the trait-carrying units that had become known as genes. A focus on new kinds of model organisms such as viruses and bacteria, along with the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA in 1953, marked the transition to the era of molecular genetics. From the 1950s to present times, biology has been vastly extended in the molecular domain. The genetic code was cracked by Har Gobind Khorana, Robert W. Holley and Marshall Warren Nirenberg after DNA was understood to contain codons. Finally, the Human Genome Project was launched in 1990 with the goal of mapping the general human genome. This project was essentially completed in 2003, with further analysis still being published. The Human Genome Project was the first step in a globalized effort to incorporate accumulated knowledge of biology into a functional, molecular definition of the human body and the bodies of other organisms.
Foundations of modern biology
Much of modern biology can be encompassed within five unifying principles: cell theory, evolution, genetics, homeostasis, and energy.
Cells in culture, stained for keratin (red) and DNA (green)
Natural selection of a population for dark coloration.
Main article: Evolution
Darwin theorized that species and breeds developed through the processes of natural selection and artificial selection or selective breeding. Genetic drift was embraced as an additional mechanism of evolutionary development in the modern synthesis of the theory.
The evolutionary history of the species—which describes the characteristics of the various species from which it descended—together with its genealogical relationship to every other species is known as its phylogeny. Widely varied approaches to biology generate information about phylogeny. These include the comparisons of DNA sequences conducted within molecular biology or genomics, and comparisons of fossils or other records of ancient organisms in paleontology. Biologists organize and analyze evolutionary relationships through various methods, including phylogenetics, phenetics, and cladistics. (For a summary of major events in the evolution of life as currently understood by biologists, see evolutionary timeline.)
The theory of evolution postulates that all organisms on the Earth, both living and extinct, have descended from a common ancestor or an ancestral gene pool. This last universal common ancestor of all organisms is believed to have appeared about 3.5 billion years ago. Biologists generally regard the universality and ubiquity of the genetic code as definitive evidence in favor of the theory of universal common descent for all bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes (see: origin of life).
A Punnett square depicting a cross between two pea plants heterozygous for purple (B) and white (b) blossoms
Main article: Genetics
Genes are the primary units of inheritance in all organisms. A gene is a unit of heredity and corresponds to a region of DNA that influences the form or function of an organism in specific ways. All organisms, from bacteria to animals, share the same basic machinery that copies and translates DNA into proteins. Cells transcribe a DNA gene into an RNA version of the gene, and a ribosome then translates the RNA into a protein, a sequence of amino acids. The translation code from RNA codon to amino acid is the same for most organisms, but slightly different for some. For example, a sequence of DNA that codes for insulin in humans also codes for insulin when inserted into other organisms, such as plants.
DNA usually occurs as linear chromosomes in eukaryotes, and circular chromosomes in prokaryotes. A chromosome is an organized structure consisting of DNA and histones. The set of chromosomes in a cell and any other hereditary information found in the mitochondria, chloroplasts, or other locations is collectively known as its genome. In eukaryotes, genomic DNA is located in the cell nucleus, along with small amounts in mitochondria and chloroplasts. In prokaryotes, the DNA is held within an irregularly shaped body in the cytoplasm called the nucleoid. The genetic information in a genome is held within genes, and the complete assemblage of this information in an organism is called its genotype.
Main article: Homeostasis
Homeostasis is the ability of an open system to regulate its internal environment to maintain stable conditions by means of multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustments controlled by interrelated regulation mechanisms. All living organisms, whether unicellular or multicellular, exhibit homeostasis.
To maintain dynamic equilibrium and effectively carry out certain functions, a system must detect and respond to perturbations. After the detection of a perturbation, a biological system normally responds through negative feedback. This means stabilizing conditions by either reducing or increasing the activity of an organ or system. One example is the release of glucagon when sugar levels are too low.
Basic overview of energy and human life.
The survival of a living organism depends on the continuous input of energy. Chemical reactions that are responsible for its structure and function are tuned to extract energy from substances that act as its food and transform them to help form new cells and sustain them. In this process, molecules of chemical substances that constitute food play two roles; first, they contain energy that can be transformed for biological chemical reactions; second, they develop new molecular structures made up of biomolecules.
The organisms responsible for the introduction of energy into an ecosystem are known as producers or autotrophs. Nearly all of these organisms originally draw energy from the sun. Plants and other phototrophs use solar energy via a process known as photosynthesis to convert raw materials into organic molecules, such as ATP, whose bonds can be broken to release energy. A few ecosystems, however, depend entirely on energy extracted by chemotrophs from methane, sulfides, or other non-luminal energy sources.
Some of the captured energy is used to produce biomass to sustain life and provide energy for growth and development. The majority of the rest of this energy is lost as heat and waste molecules. The most important processes for converting the energy trapped in chemical substances into energy useful to sustain life are metabolism and cellular respiration.
Main articles: Molecular biology, Cell biology, Genetics, and Developmental biology
Schematic of typical animal cell depicting the various organelles and structures.
Molecular biology is the study of biology at a molecular level. This field overlaps with other areas of biology, particularly with genetics and biochemistry. Molecular biology chiefly concerns itself with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interrelationship of DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis and learning how these interactions are regulated.
Cell biology studies the structural and physiological properties of cells, including their behaviors, interactions, and environment. This is done on both the microscopic and molecular levels, for single-celled organisms such as bacteria as well as the specialized cells in multicellular organisms such as humans. Understanding the structure and function of cells is fundamental to all of the biological sciences. The similarities and differences between cell types are particularly relevant to molecular biology.
Anatomy considers the forms of macroscopic structures such as organs and organ systems.
Genetics is the science of genes, heredity, and the variation of organisms. Genes encode the information necessary for synthesizing proteins, which in turn play a large role in influencing (though, in many instances, not completely determining) the final phenotype of the organism. In modern research, genetics provides important tools in the investigation of the function of a particular gene, or the analysis of genetic interactions. Within organisms, genetic information generally is carried in chromosomes, where it is represented in the chemical structure of particular DNA molecules.
Developmental biology studies the process by which organisms grow and develop. Originating in embryology, modern developmental biology studies the genetic control of cell growth, differentiation, and "morphogenesis," which is the process that progressively gives rise to tissues, organs, and anatomy. Model organisms for developmental biology include the round worm Caenorhabditis elegans, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the zebrafish Danio rerio, the mouse Mus musculus,, and the weed Arabidopsis thaliana. (A model organism is a species that is extensively studied to understand particular biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in that organism provide insight into the workings of other organisms.)
Main article: Physiology
Physiology studies how for example nervous, immune, endocrine, respiratory, and circulatory systems, function and interact. The study of these systems is shared with medically oriented disciplines such as neurology and immunology.
Evolutionary biology is partly based on paleontology, which uses the fossil record to answer questions about the mode and tempo of evolution, and partly on the developments in areas such as population genetics and evolutionary theory. In the 1980s, developmental biology re-entered evolutionary biology from its initial exclusion from the modern synthesis through the study of evolutionary developmental biology. Related fields often considered part of evolutionary biology are phylogenetics, systematics, and taxonomy.
A phylogenetic tree of all living things, based on rRNA gene data, showing the separation of the three domains bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes as described initially by Carl Woese. Trees constructed with other genes are generally similar, although they may place some early-branching groups very differently, presumably owing to rapid rRNA evolution. The exact relationships of the three domains are still being debated.
The hierarchy of biological classification's eight major taxonomic ranks. Intermediate minor rankings are not shown. This diagram uses a 3 Domains / 6 Kingdoms format
Main article: Systematics
Multiple speciation events create a tree structured system of relationships between species. The role of systematics is to study these relationships and thus the differences and similarities between species and groups of species. However, systematics was an active field of research long before evolutionary thinking was common. The classification, taxonomy, and nomenclature of biological organisms is administered by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, and International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria for animals, plants, and bacteria, respectively. The classification of viruses, viroids, prions, and all other sub-viral agents that demonstrate biological characteristics is conducted by the International Code of Virus classification and nomenclature However, several other viral classification systems do exist.
Traditionally, living things have been divided into five kingdoms: Monera; Protista; Fungi; Plantae; Animalia.
However, many scientists now consider this five-kingdom system outdated. Modern alternative classification systems generally begin with the three-domain system: Archaea (originally Archaebacteria); Bacteria (originally Eubacteria); Eukaryota (including protists, fungi, plants, and animals) These domains reflect whether the cells have nuclei or not, as well as differences in the chemical composition of the cell exteriors.
Further, each kingdom is broken down recursively until each species is separately classified. The order is: Domain; Kingdom; Phylum; Class; Order; Family; Genus; Species.
There is also a series of intracellular parasites that are "on the edge of life" in terms of metabolic activity, meaning that many scientists do not actually classify these structures as alive, due to their lack of at least one or more of the fundamental functions that define life. They are classified as viruses, viroids, prions, or satellites.
The scientific name of an organism is generated from its genus and species. For example, humans are listed as Homo sapiens. Homo is the genus, and sapiens the species. When writing the scientific name of an organism, it is proper to capitalize the first letter in the genus and put all of the species in lowercase. Additionally, the entire term may be italicized or underlined.
The dominant classification system is called the Linnaean taxonomy. It includes ranks and binomial nomenclature. How organisms are named is governed by international agreements such as the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN), the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), and the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria (ICNB).
A merging draft, BioCode, was published in 1997 in an attempt to standardize nomenclature in these three areas, but has yet to be formally adopted. The BioCode draft has received little attention since 1997; its originally planned implementation date of January 1, 2000, has passed unnoticed. A revised BioCode that, instead of replacing the existing codes, would provide a unified context for them, was proposed in 2011. However, the International Botanical Congress of 2011 declined to consider the BioCode proposal. The International Code of Virus Classification and Nomenclature (ICVCN) remains outside the BioCode.
Mutual symbiosis between clownfish of the genus Amphiprion that dwell among the tentacles of tropical sea anemones. The territorial fish protects the anemone from anemone-eating fish, and in turn the stinging tentacles of the anemone protects the clown fish from its predators.
Main articles: Ecology, Ethology, Behavior, and Biogeography
Ecology studies the distribution and abundance of living organisms, and the interactions between organisms and their environment. The habitat of an organism can be described as the local abiotic factors such as climate and ecology, in addition to the other organisms and biotic factors that share its environment. One reason that biological systems can be difficult to study is that so many different interactions with other organisms and the environment are possible, even on small scales. A microscopic bacterium in a local sugar gradient is responding to its environment as much as a lion searching for food in the African savanna. For any species, behaviors can be co-operative, aggressive, parasitic, or symbiotic. Matters become more complex when two or more species interact in an ecosystem.
Ecological systems are studied at several different levels, from individuals and populations to ecosystems and the biosphere. The term population biology is often used interchangeably with population ecology, although population biology is more frequently used when studying diseases, viruses, and microbes, while population ecology is more commonly used when studying plants and animals. Ecology draws on many subdisciplines.
Ethology studies animal behavior (particularly that of social animals such as primates and canids), and is sometimes considered a branch of zoology. Ethologists have been particularly concerned with the evolution of behavior and the understanding of behavior in terms of the theory of natural selection. In one sense, the first modern ethologist was Charles Darwin, whose book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, influenced many ethologists to come.
Biogeography studies the spatial distribution of organisms on the Earth, focusing on topics like plate tectonics, climate change, dispersal and migration, and cladistics.
Branches of biology
These are the main branches of biology
Agriculture – the study of producing crops from the land, with an emphasis on practical applications
Anatomy – the study of form and function, in plants, animals, and other organisms, or specifically in humans
Arachnology – the study of arachnids
Astrobiology – the study of evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe—also known as exobiology, exopaleontology, and bioastronomy
Biochemistry – the study of the chemical reactions required for life to exist and function, usually a focus on the cellular level
Bioengineering – the study of biology through the means of engineering with an emphasis on applied knowledge and especially related to biotechnology
Biogeography – the study of the distribution of species spatially and temporally
Bioinformatics – the use of information technology for the study, collection, and storage of genomic and other biological data
Biomathematics (or Mathematical biology) – the quantitative or mathematical study of biological processes, with an emphasis on modeling
Biomechanics – often considered a branch of medicine, the study of the mechanics of living beings, with an emphasis on applied use through prosthetics or orthotics
Biomedical research – the study of the human body in health and disease
Biomusicology - study of music from a biological point of view.
Biophysics – the study of biological processes through physics, by applying the theories and methods traditionally used in the physical sciences
Biotechnology – a new and sometimes controversial branch of biology that studies the manipulation of living matter, including genetic modification and synthetic biology
Building biology – the study of the indoor living environment
Botany – the study of plants
Cell biology – the study of the cell as a complete unit, and the molecular and chemical interactions that occur within a living cell
Conservation biology – the study of the preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife
Cryobiology – the study of the effects of lower than normally preferred temperatures on living beings
Developmental biology – the study of the processes through which an organism forms, from zygote to full structure
Ecology – the study of the interactions of living organisms with one another and with the non-living elements of their environment
Embryology – the study of the development of embryo (from fecundation to birth)
Entomology – the study of insects
Environmental biology – the study of the natural world, as a whole or in a particular area, especially as affected by human activity
Epidemiology – a major component of public health research, studying factors affecting the health of populations
Epigenetics – the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence
Ethology – the study of animal behavior
Evolutionary biology – the study of the origin and descent of species over time
Genetics – the study of genes and heredity
Hematology ( also known as Haematology ) - the study of blood and blood - forming organs.
Herpetology – the study of reptiles and amphibians
Histology – the study of cells and tissues, a microscopic branch of anatomy
Ichthyology – the study of fish
Integrative biology – the study of whole organisms
Limnology – the study of inland waters
Mammalogy – the study of mammals
Marine biology (or Biological oceanography) – the study of ocean ecosystems, plants, animals, and other living beings
Microbiology – the study of microscopic organisms (microorganisms) and their interactions with other living things
Molecular biology – the study of biology and biological functions at the molecular level, some cross over with biochemistry
Mycology – the study of fungi
Neurobiology – the study of the nervous system, including anatomy, physiology and pathology
Oncology – the study of cancer processes, including virus or mutation oncogenesis, angiogenesis and tissues remoldings
Ornithology – the study of birds
Population biology – the study of groups of conspecific organisms, including
Population ecology – the study of how population dynamics and extinction
Population genetics – the study of changes in gene frequencies in populations of organisms
Paleontology – the study of fossils and sometimes geographic evidence of prehistoric life
Pathobiology or pathology – the study of diseases, and the causes, processes, nature, and development of disease
Parasitology – the study of parasites and parasitism
Pharmacology – the study and practical application of preparation, use, and effects of drugs and synthetic medicines
Physiology – the study of the functioning of living organisms and the organs and parts of living organisms
Phytopathology – the study of plant diseases (also called Plant Pathology)
Psychobiology – the study of the biological bases of psychology
Sociobiology – the study of the biological bases of sociology
Structural biology – a branch of molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics concerned with the molecular structure of biological macromolecules
Synthetic Biology- research integrating biology and engineering; construction of biological functions not found in nature
Virology – the study of viruses and some other virus-like agents
Zoology – the study of animals, including classification, physiology, development, and behavior (branches include: Entomology, Ethology, Herpetology, Ichthyology, Mammalogy, and Ornithology)