Entomology

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Not to be confused with Etymology, the study of the history of words.
An insect resembling a leaf

Entomology (from Greek ἔντομος, entomos, "that which is cut in pieces or engraved/segmented", hence "insect"; and -λογία, -logia[1]) is the scientific study of insects, a branch of arthropodology. In the past the term "insect" was more vague, and historically the definition of entomology included the study of terrestrial animals in other arthropod groups or other phyla, such as arachnids, myriapods, earthworms, land snails, and slugs. This wider meaning may still be encountered in informal use.

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.

At some 1.3 million described species, insects account for more than two-thirds of all known organisms,[2] date back some 400 million years, and have many kinds of interactions with humans and other forms of life on earth.

History of entomology[edit]

Plate from Transactions of the Entomological Society, 1848.

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.[3]

William Kirby is widely considered as the father of Entomology. In collaboration with William Spence he published a definitive entomological encyclopedia, Introduction to Entomology, regarded as the subject's foundational text. He also helped to found the Royal Entomological Society in London in 1833, one of the earliest such societies in the world; (earlier antecedents, such as the Aurelian society date back to the 1740s.)[4]

Entomology developed rapidly in the 19th and 20th centuries, and was studied by large numbers of people, including such notable figures as Charles Darwin, Jean-Henri Fabre, Vladimir Nabokov, Karl von Frisch (winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,[5]) and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson.

Identification of insects[edit]

These 100 Trigonopterus species were described simultaneously using DNA barcoding

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, Daisy, ABIS, SPIDA and Draw-wing

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

Entomology in Pest Control[edit]

In 1994 the Entomological Society of America launched a new professional certification program for the pest control industry called The Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE). To qualify as a true entomologist an individual would normally require an advanced degree, with most entomologists pursuing their PhD. While not true entomologists in the traditional sense, individuals who attain the ACE certification may be referred to as ACEs, Amateur entomologists, Associate entomologists or –more commonly– Associate-Certified Entomologists.

Taxonomic specialization[edit]

Part of a large beetle collection

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[edit]

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

Museums[edit]

Here is a list of selected museums which contain very large insect collections.

Asia[edit]

Africa[edit]

Europe[edit]

United States[edit]

Canada[edit]

Entomology in popular culture[edit]

Further information: Cultural entomology

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 T. J. 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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910207-4. 
  2. ^ Chapman, A. D. (2006). Numbers of living species in Australia and the World. Canberra: Australian Biological Resources Study. pp. 60pp. ISBN 978-0-642-56850-2. 
  3. ^ Antonio Saltini, Storia delle scienze agrarie, 4 vols, Bologna 1984-89, ISBN 88-206-2412-5, ISBN 88-206-2413-3, ISBN 88-206-2414-1, ISBN 88-206-2415-X
  4. ^ Clark, John F.M. (2009). Bugs and the Victorians. Yale University Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0300150911. 
  5. ^ Karl von Frisch, Decoding the Language of the Bee, Nobel Lecture, December 12, 1973

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 1-4020-6242-7.

External links[edit]

“I suppose you are an entomologist?”

“Not quite so ambitious as that, sir. I should like to put my eyes on the individual entitled to that name. No man can be truly called an entomologist, sir; the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Poet at the Breakfast Table