Biological terms for living organisms
Botany or plant biology is the branch of biology that deals with the scientific study all aspects of plant life. It covers a wide range of sub-disciplines concerned with the study of plants, algae and fungi which would involve a detailed scientific study including structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, development, diseases, chemical properties, and evolutionary relationships. The study of plants began long back in history when efforts were made to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants. Till date, botanists have identified and studied over 550,000 species of plants and algae, however they estimate that there are many species of plants or algae yet to be identified making botany a young and growing discipline.
Zoology is the branch of biology that deals with the study of structure, function, behavior, and evolution of animals.
Microbiology as the name suggest, is the study of microorganisms, which are free living or cluster. The focus is primarily on microscopic organisms but also includes eukaryotes such as fungi and protists, and some macroscopic prokaryotes. In a nutshell, microbiology can be defined as the study of life and organisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Astrobiology is the branch of biology which deals with the study of origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Earth is the only planet in the universe known be inhabited by living organisms, however, advancements in the fields of astrobiology and discovery of large varieties of life with exceptional ability to thrive in harshest environments on Earth has led to the speculation that life may possibly be thriving on many of the extraterrestrial bodies in the universe. This interdisciplinary field includes the search for habitable environments in our Solar System, any evidences of life prevailing or had prevailed earlier in time, the search for occurrence of any prebiotic chemistry, research into the origins and evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth as well as in outer space.
Virology is the branch of biology which deals with the study of viruses and virus-like agents which includes detailed study on their structure, classification and evolution, modes of infection and exploiting living cells for virus reproduction, the diseases cause in turn, the techniques used to isolate and culture them, and studies of their role in research and therapy. This discipline is often considered as a part of microbiology or pathology.
Ecology is the sub-discipline of biology and a scientific study of the distributions, abundance and relations of organisms and their interactions with the environment they live in. This includes the study of plant and animal populations, their communities and ecosystems. The word ecosystem describes the web or network of relations among organisms at different scales of organization and ecology refers to any form of biodiversity, beginning with tiny bacteria's role in nutrient recycling to the effects of tropical rain forest on the Earth's atmosphere. The study Ecology is generally misunderstood to be synonymous with environment, environmentalism, or environmental science in contrast ecology is closely related to the disciplines of physiology, evolution, genetics and behavior.
Evolution is the branch of biology which can be defined as the change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms through successive generations. Some populations are found to split into smaller groups and these individual groups evolve independently eventually diversifying into whole new species. It is believed that ultimately life descended from a common ancestry through a long series of speciation events, stretching back in the form of a tree, life has grown over the 3,500 million years of life on Earth. Evolution dedicates towards finding visible in anatomical, genetic and other likenesses between groups of organisms, geographical distribution of related species, the fossil record and the recorded genetic changes in living organisms over many generations.
Genetics is a sub-discipline of biology and the science of heredity and variation observed in living organisms. The fact that living organisms inherit various traits from their parents has been used since prehistoric times for improvement of crop plants and animals through selective breeding. However, the modern science of genetics seeks to understand the process of inheritance, began with the work of Gregor Mendel in the middle of nineteenth century who observed that organisms inherit traits via discrete units of inheritance, which are now called genes.
The term “morphology” in biology is the branch which deals with the study of the form and structure of living organisms and their specific structural features which would include all aspects of the outward appearance as well as the form and structure of the internal parts like bones and organs. This branch of study is directly in contrast to physiology, which focuses primarily on the function. Morphology was and is still now a major aspect in the field of taxonomy.
Anatomy is the branch of biology directly in contrast to morphology, and deals with the internal structure of living organisms. It includes animal anatomy and plant anatomy as well as anatomy of microorganisms. Anatomy is found to be subdivided into macroscopic anatomy and microscopic anatomy where the former is the study of anatomical structures that can be seen by unaided vision with the naked eye and microscopic anatomy is the study of minute anatomical structures usually assisted with the help of microscopes.
Biological classification or taxonomy is a method used by biologists to group and categorize living organisms by biological ranks, such as genus or species. Taxonomy has its root in the works of Carolus Linnaeus, who grouped species in context to shared physical characteristics. This methodology has since been revised to improve consistency with the Darwinian principle of common descent. Molecular phylogenetics, uses DNA sequences as data, and has driven many recent revisions in taxonomy and is likely believed to continue doing so. Biological classification belongs to the science of biological systematic which is the science of creating and arranging different ranks in which every living organism is fitted in along with its closest relatives in an order of hierarchy.
Physiology is the branch of biology which deals with the science of the functioning of living systems. Being a subcategory of biology, physiology applies scientific method to determine how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells and biomolecules carry out the chemical or physical function they are allotted to do in a living system.
Histology is the branch of biology which deals with the study of the microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues in both plants as well as animals which is performed by examining a thin slice or section of the tissue with the aid of a appropriate microscope. An essential tool in biology and medicine Histology helps in visualizing or differentially identifying microscopic structures by frequently enhancing through the use of histological stains.
Instrumentation in the field of biology deals with the use of various instruments that are used for study and research. Instrumentation in biology can start with a use of simple lens to electron microscopes and a huge number of other sophisticated devices. This branch deals with the basic technical parts of the instruments used, the logic and working principles and most importantly the use and way to use those instruments. This will help a student to keep themselves up to date with the advancements in biology in context of the new techniques developed.
Spectroscopy was originally defined as the study of the interaction between radiation and matter as a function of wavelength (λ). Spectroscopy was initially referred to the use of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength by use of an device such as prism and later the concept was expanded to comprise any measurement of a quantity as a function of either wavelength or frequency. Spectroscopy has a variety of applications in the field of biology and common types of spectroscopy used are UV spectroscopy, Infra Red spectroscopy, Atomic Adsorption spectroscopy etc.
Chromatography is a scientific technique and can be defined as a set of laboratory techniques for the separation of simple and complex mixtures. The process of chromatography involves passing a mixture dissolved in a "mobile phase" through a “stationary phase”, which separates the analyte to be measured from other molecules in the mixture and this is possible as different molecules have differential partitioning between the mobile and stationary phases. Differences in a compound's partition coefficient results in differential retention level on the stationary phase and thus causing the separation.
Isolation can be defined as obtaining the needed subject from a mixed or compound state. Isolation studies in the field of biology ranges from Ecological isolation to isolation of biomolecules such as DNA or RNA or proteins. The techniques followed are volumes in number and specific as every subject is unique in biology. These techniques are updated day by day and new techniques are being invented everyday for molecules which were considered un- isolatable in nature before.
Nucleic acids: DNA & RNA
Nucleic acids are biologically vital macromolecules which are composed of chains of monomeric nucleotides. Their importance is prevalent in the fact that these molecules carry genetic information or form structures within cells and the most common nucleic acids are deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). Nucleic acids are universal in living organisms, and they are found in all cells including even viruses. Advancements in science have resulted in invention of artificial nucleic acids such as peptide nucleic acid (PNA), Morpholino and locked nucleic acid (LNA), glycol nucleic acid(GNA) and finally threose nucleic acid (TNA) which are distinguished from naturally-occurring DNA or RNA by changes to the backbone of the molecule.
A macromolecule can be defined as a very large molecule usually created by the process of polymerization of numerous monomers. In biochemistry or biology, the term is applied to four conventional biopolymers namely nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. These polymer macromolecules are formed of constituent molecules called monomers.
Mitosis is a part of over all process of in which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets in two nuclei and is generally followed immediately by the process of cytokinesis, which is the division of the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly equal shares of all these cellular components. The processes mitosis and cytokinesis together define the mitotic or M phase of the cell cycle which is the division of the mother cell into two daughter cells, genetically identical to each other as well as their parent cell and this mitosis accounts for approximately 10% of the cell cycle
Meiosis is a biological process where there is occurrence of a reductional division in which the number of chromosomes per cell is cut in half. In animals, the process of meiosis generally results in the formation of gametes, whereas in other organisms it gives rise to formation of spores. The DNA in the parent cell is replicated during S-phase of the cell cycle followed by two cell divisions which separate the replicated chromosomes into four haploid gametes or spores. This meiosis process is vital for sexual reproduction which makes it indispensable to all eukaryotes that follow sexual reproduction.
Hormones are chemical substances released by a cell in one part of the body, which sends out messages that affect cells in entirely other parts of the organism. Small amounts of hormone can alter cell metabolism which at times when exceeded in even very small quantities can cause a drastic change. A chemical messenger is essential to transport signals from one cell to another and all multicellular organisms are found to produce hormones. Hormones are also produced by plants and are called phytohormones. Animal hormones are transported through blood and cells respond to a hormone when they express a specific receptor for that hormone where the hormone then binds to the receptor protein, resulting in the activation of a signal transduction mechanism ultimately leading to specific responses.
Enzymes are basically complex proteins that catalyze chemical reactions in a living organism. In reactions involving enzymes, the molecules present at the beginning of the process are called substrates and they are converted by the enzyme into different molecules called the products. Almost every process in a biological cell needs the assistance of enzymes to occur at significant rates and since enzymes are selective in regards with their substrates and speed up only a few reactions from among many possibilities, a set of enzymes produced in a cell determines the metabolic pathways that will occur in that cell.
As the name suggests, molecular biology is the study of biology at a molecular level. This area of study overlaps with areas of biology and chemistry in particular genetics and biochemistry. Molecular biology mainly focuses in understanding the interactions between the various systems present in a cell, also including the interactions between molecules such as DNA, RNA and protein biosynthesis as well as learning the regulatory factors influencing these interactions.
Biochemistry can be defined as the study of the chemical processes occurring in living organisms and basically deals with understanding the structures and functions of cellular components such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids and other biomolecules. Biochemistry has gigantically in the past few decades and had become successful in explaining living processes. Now, the primary focus of biochemistry is in understanding how biological molecules give rise to various processes that occur within living cells in turn relating to understand the overall function of whole organisms.
Cell biology is an academic sub-discipline of biology that studies various aspects of cells such as physiological properties, structure, organelles contained in them, interactions with the environment, life cycle, division and finally death. These studies are made on both microscopic and molecular levels and research in cell biology encompasses both microscopic as well as macroscopic living organisms.
Cellular energetic is the branch of biology which deals with the study of various functions or processes occurring in a living biological cell with respect to the flow of energy. This includes various processes like photosynthesis, respiration, DNA replication etc where energy plays a vital role in carrying out the process and learning its relation and principles involved.
Cellular communication is growing field of biology where studies are made on how cell communicate with each other, the reasons involved and includes methodologies as well as unknown details regarding cell communication. Cell signaling is a vital part of the complex system of communication which governs basic cellular activities and coordinates cell actions. The capacity of cells to distinguish and appropriately respond to their environment is the basis of processes such as development, tissue repair, and immunity as well as normal tissue homeostasis.
Vertebrates can be shortly defined as living organisms with backbones and spinal columns and till date about 58,000 species of vertebrates have been described which makes Vertebrata the largest subphylum of chordates. Vertebrates make up about 5% of all described animal species till date remaining of it are the invertebrates, which lack backbones.
Invertebrate are animal without the presence of a backbone or a spinal column. The group forms the majority of the animal kingdom including 95% of all animal species all animals described leaving out those of the chordate subphylum Vertebrata which includes fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Pharmacology in short can be defined as the study of drug action. To be more specific, it is the study of the interactions that occur between any living organism and chemicals which are taken in by it that affect normal or abnormal biochemical functions inside the organism. If any substance is found to have a medicinal property, it is considered a pharmaceutical. Two main areas of pharmacology are pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics where the former deals with the study of the effects of the drugs on biological systems, and the latter the deals with the study of effects of biological systems on the drugs.
Cryobiology is the branch of biology which primarily focuses on studying the effects of low temperatures on living things. In practice, cryobiology can be defined as the study of biological material or systems at temperatures below normal and these materials or systems studied may include proteins, cells, tissues, organs, or sometimes even whole organisms. It is a well known fact that this field of study is fast growing.
Biomechanics is an emerging field of biology and can be defined as the application of mechanical principles to living organisms as well as the functional basic units of life which is the cell.
Biomathematics or Mathematical Biology
Mathematical biology is an fascinating and fast growing field of biology where the current topics include the formulation and analysis of various mathematical models on living organisms, often in the forms of difference equations or differential equations. Analytical as well as numerical studies of such living models frequently present interesting and challenging dynamical system questions.
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary field of study which makes use of methods of physics as well as physical chemistry to study biological systems. Studies that are included under the branch of biophysics cover all levels of biological organization, right from the molecular scale to whole organisms and sometimes even ecosystems. Research in biophysics shares significant overlap with other fields of biology such as biochemistry, nanotechnology, bioengineering, agrophysics and systems biology.
Computational biology is an interdisciplinary involving the disciplines of computer science as well as biology and applies the techniques of computer science, applied mathematics and statistics to address problems arising in the field of biology. The studies involved primarily focuses on the development of computational and statistical data analysis methods to address scientific research topics with their theoretical and experimental questions without a laboratory.
Developmental biology is the study of biology which deals with various processes by which organisms grow and develop. The modern concept of developmental biology deals with the study of the genetic control of growth, differentiation and "morphogenesis", which is the process that results in formation of tissues, organs and anatomy.
Biotechnology is generally called a field of applied biology that involves the use of living things in providing useful applications. The concept of biotechnology encompasses various procedures for modifying living organisms according to human purposes.
Nanotechnology is the latest branch of biology and focuses on the study of the controlling of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. In general nanotechnology deals with structures of dimensions between 1 to 100 nanometer in any way and involves developing materials or devices within that size.
Immunology is a broad branch of biomedical science which in turn belongs to the discipline of biology that covers the study of all aspects of the immune system in all organisms. It focuses on obtaining knowledge on the physiological functioning of the immune system in states of both health as well as disease. Any malfunctions occurring in the immune system such as immunological disorders, physical, chemical and physiological characteristics of the components of the immune system are also included in the study of Immunology. Immunology has numerous applications in several disciplines of science.
Biosemiotics is a branch of biology and a growing field that focuses on the production, action and interpretation of signs in the biological realm. This field of study attempts to integrate the findings of biology as a science and semiotics, representing a typical shift pertaining to the scientific view of life, thereby demonstrating the immanent and intrinsic aspect of semiosis which is basically a sign process, including meaning and interpretation.
Sociobiology is an interdisciplinary field of study which aims at explaining the social behavior in animal species by considering the Darwinian advantages specific behaviors may have. A major part of this field includes topics in biology as well as sociology, but also draws topics from other disciplines such as ethology, anthropology, evolution, zoology, archaeology, and population genetics. Pertaining to human societies, sociobiology is closely related to the fields of human behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology.
Radiobiology or better known as radiation biology can be defined as an interdisciplinary field of science that studies the biological effects of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation of the whole electromagnetic spectrum which would include radioactivity, x-rays, ultraviolet radiation, visible light, microwaves, radio wave, low-frequency radiation and its related modalities. It is usually considered as a subtopic of biophysics.
Photobiology is branch of biology and the scientific study of the interactions that occurs between light and living organisms. The field includes the study of various concepts such as photosynthesis, photomorphogenesis, visual processing, circadian rhythms, bioluminescence, and ultraviolet radiation effects.
Marine biology is a branch of biology and the scientific study of organisms thriving in the ocean or other marine or brackish bodies of water. Many species are found to live in the sea and the term marine biology is used to classify species based on the environment rather than on taxonomy. Marine biology differs from the field of marine ecology in the factor that marine ecology focuses on how organisms interact with each other and environment and marine biology is the study of the animal itself.
Gerontology, a branch of biology is the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging. It distinguishes itself from geriatrics by the fact that geriatrics is the branch of medicine that studies the diseases that occur in the elderly.
Bioinformatics is fast growing sub-discipline of biology and in short can be defined as the application of statistics and computer science to the field of molecular biology. This field has helped the discipline of biology to advance gigantically and keep itself on par with the developing cutting edge technologies.
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