Biological terms for living organisms
Botany orÂ plant biologyÂ is the branch ofÂ biologyÂ that deals with the scientific study all aspectsÂ of plantÂ life. It covers a wide range of sub-disciplines concerned with the study ofÂ plants,Â algaeÂ andÂ fungi which would involve a detailed scientific study includingÂ structure,Â growth,Â reproduction,Â metabolism, development,Â 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 550,000Â speciesÂ 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 ofÂ biologyÂ that deals with the study of structure, function, behavior, and evolution ofÂ animals.
MicrobiologyÂ as the name suggest, is the study ofÂ microorganisms, which areÂ free living or cluster. The focus is primarily on microscopicÂ organisms but also includes eukaryotes such asÂ fungiÂ andÂ protists, andÂ some macroscopic prokaryotes.Â 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.
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AstrobiologyÂ is the branch of biology which deals with the study of origin,Â evolution, distribution, and future ofÂ lifeÂ in theÂ 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 ofÂ lifeÂ 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. ThisÂ interdisciplinaryÂ field includes the search for habitable environments in ourÂ 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 ofÂ life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges onÂ EarthÂ as well as inÂ outer space.
VirologyÂ is the branch of biology which deals with the study ofÂ virusesÂ and virus-like agents which includes detailed study on their structure, classification and evolution, modes of infection and exploiting living cellsÂ 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 ofÂ microbiologyÂ or pathology.
EcologyÂ is the sub-discipline of biology and aÂ scientific study of the distributions, abundance and relations ofÂ organismsÂ and their interactions with theÂ environment they live in.Â This includes the study of plant and animal populations, their communities andÂ 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 tinyÂ bacteria'sÂ 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 withÂ environment,Â environmentalism, orÂ environmental science in contrast ecology is closely related to the disciplines ofÂ physiology,Â evolution,Â geneticsÂ andÂ behavior.
EvolutionÂ is the branch of biology which can be defined as the change in theÂ inheritedÂ traitsÂ of aÂ populationÂ ofÂ organismsÂ through successive generations. Some populations are found toÂ splitÂ into smaller groups and these individual groups evolve independently eventuallyÂ diversifying into whole new species. It is believed that ultimatelyÂ lifeÂ descended from aÂ common ancestryÂ through a long series of speciation events, stretching back in the form of aÂ tree, lifeÂ has grown over the 3,500 million years ofÂ life on Earth. Evolution dedicates towards finding visible inÂ anatomical,Â geneticÂ 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.
GeneticsÂ is a sub-discipline ofÂ biology and theÂ scienceÂ ofÂ heredityÂ andÂ variation observedÂ in livingÂ organisms.Â The fact that living organisms inherit various traits from their parents has been used sinceÂ prehistoricÂ 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 ofÂ Gregor MendelÂ in the middle of nineteenth century who observed that organisms inherit traits viaÂ discreteÂ units of inheritance, which are now calledÂ genes.
The term "morphology" inÂ 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 toÂ physiology, which focuses primarily on the function. Morphology was and is still now a major aspect in the field of taxonomy.
AnatomyÂ is the branch ofÂ biology directly in contrast to morphology,Â and deals with the internal structure of living organisms. It includes animal anatomy andÂ plant anatomyÂ 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 andÂ microscopic anatomy is the study of minute anatomical structures usually assisted with the help of microscopes.
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Biological classification orÂ taxonomy is a method used by biologistsÂ to group and categorizeÂ living organismsÂ byÂ biological ranks, such asÂ genusÂ orÂ species. Taxonomy has its root in the works ofÂ Carolus Linnaeus, who grouped species in context to shared physical characteristics. This methodology has since been revised to improve consistency with the DarwinianÂ principle ofÂ common descent.Â Molecular phylogenetics, usesÂ DNA sequencesÂ as data, and has driven many recent revisions in taxonomy and is likely believed to continue doing so. Biological classification belongs to the science ofÂ 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.
PhysiologyÂ is the branch of biology which deals with the science of the functioning of living systems. Being a subcategory ofÂ biology, physiology appliesÂ scientific methodÂ to determine how organisms, organ systems,Â organs,Â cellsÂ and biomolecules carry out the chemical or physical function they are allotted to do in a living system.
HistologyÂ is the branch of biology which deals with the study of theÂ microscopic anatomyÂ ofÂ cellsÂ andÂ tissuesÂ in bothÂ plantsÂ as well asÂ animals which is performed by examining a thin slice or section of the tissue with the aid of a appropriate microscope. An essential tool inÂ biologyÂ andÂ 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.
SpectroscopyÂ was originally defined as the study of the interaction betweenÂ radiationÂ and matterÂ as a function ofÂ wavelengthÂ (Î»). Spectroscopy was initially referred to the use ofÂ visible lightÂ dispersed according to its wavelength by use of an device such asÂ prism and later the concept was expanded to comprise any measurement of a quantity as a function of either wavelength orÂ 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.
ChromatographyÂ is a scientific technique and can be defined as a set ofÂ laboratory techniquesÂ for theÂ separation of simple and complex mixtures. The process of chromatography involves passing a mixture dissolved in a "mobile phase" through aÂ "stationary phase", which separates theÂ 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'sÂ partition coefficientÂ results in differential retention level on the stationary phase and thusÂ causingÂ 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 acidsÂ are biologicallyÂ vital macromoleculesÂ which are composed of chains ofÂ monomericÂ nucleotides. Their importance is prevalent in the fact thatÂ these molecules carryÂ genetic informationÂ or form structures withinÂ cells and the most common nucleic acids areÂ deoxyribonucleic acidÂ (DNA) andÂ ribonucleic acidÂ (RNA). Nucleic acids are universal in living organisms, and they are found in all cells including evenÂ viruses. Advancements in science have resulted in invention of artificial nucleic acidsÂ such as peptide nucleic acidÂ (PNA),Â MorpholinoÂ andÂ locked nucleic acidÂ (LNA), glycol nucleic acid(GNA) andÂ finally threose nucleic acidÂ (TNA) which are distinguished from naturally-occurring DNA or RNA by changes to the backbone of the molecule.
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AÂ macromoleculeÂ can be defined as a very largeÂ moleculeÂ usually created by the process of polymerization of numerous monomers. In biochemistry or biology, the term is applied to four conventionalÂ biopolymersÂ namely nucleic acids,Â proteins,Â carbohydrates, andÂ lipids. These polymer macromolecules are formed of constituent molecules called monomers.
MitosisÂ is a part of over all process of in which aÂ eukaryoticÂ cell separates the chromosomesÂ in itsÂ cell nucleusÂ 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,Â organellesÂ andÂ cell membraneÂ into two cells containing roughly equal shares of all these cellular components. The processes mitosis and cytokinesis together define theÂ mitotic or M phaseÂ of theÂ cell cycleÂ which is theÂ divisionÂ 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 ofÂ gametes, whereas in other organisms it gives rise toÂ formation of spores. The DNA in the parent cell is replicated duringÂ S-phaseÂ of the cell cycle followed by two cell divisions which separate the replicated chromosomes into fourÂ haploidÂ gametes or spores. This meiosis process is vital forÂ sexual reproductionÂ which makes it indispensable to allÂ eukaryotes that follow sexual reproduction.
HormonesÂ 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 cellÂ 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 allÂ multicellular organismsÂ are found to produce hormones.Â Hormones are also produced by plants and are called phytohormones. Animal hormones are transported through blood and cells respond to a hormone when theyÂ expressÂ a specificÂ receptorÂ for that hormone where the hormone then binds to the receptorÂ protein, resulting in the activation of aÂ signal transductionÂ mechanism ultimately leading to specific responses.
EnzymesÂ areÂ basically complex proteinsÂ thatÂ catalyzeÂ chemical reactions in a living organism.Â In reactions involving enzymes, theÂ moleculesÂ present at the beginning of the process are calledÂ substrates and they are converted by the enzyme into different molecules called theÂ products. Almost every process in aÂ biological cellÂ 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 theÂ metabolic pathwaysÂ that will occur in that cell.
As the name suggests, molecular biologyÂ is the study ofÂ biologyÂ at aÂ molecularÂ level. This area of study overlaps with areas ofÂ biologyÂ andÂ chemistry in particularÂ geneticsÂ andÂ biochemistry. Molecular biology mainly focuses in understanding the interactions between the various systems present in aÂ cell, also including the interactions between molecules such asÂ DNA,Â RNAÂ andÂ protein biosynthesisÂ as well as learning the regulatory factors influencing these interactions.
BiochemistryÂ can be defined as the study of theÂ chemicalÂ processes occurring in livingÂ organisms and basically deals with understanding the structuresÂ and functions of cellular components such asÂ proteins,Â carbohydrates,Â lipids,Â nucleic acidsÂ and otherÂ 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 biologyÂ is anÂ academic sub-discipline of biologyÂ that studiesÂ various aspects of cells such asÂ physiological properties, structure, organellesÂ contained in them, interactions with the environment, life cycle,Â divisionÂ and finallyÂ death. These studies are made on both microscopicÂ andÂ molecularÂ levels and research in cellÂ 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 signalingÂ is a vital part of theÂ complex systemÂ ofÂ communicationÂ 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, andÂ immunityÂ as well as normal tissueÂ homeostasis.
VertebratesÂ can be shortly defined as living organisms withÂ backbonesÂ andÂ spinal columns and till date about 58,000Â speciesÂ 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 areÂ the invertebrates, which lack backbones.
InvertebrateÂ are animalÂ without the presence of a backbone or a spinal column. The group forms the majority of the animal kingdom including 95% of all animalÂ species all animals described leaving out those of theÂ chordateÂ subphylumÂ VertebrataÂ which includes fish,Â amphibians,Â reptiles, birds, andÂ mammals.
PharmacologyÂ in short can be defined as the study ofÂ drugÂ action.Â 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 haveÂ a medicinalÂ property, it is considered a pharmaceutical. Two main areas of pharmacology areÂ pharmacodynamicsÂ 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.
CryobiologyÂ is the branch ofÂ biologyÂ which primarily focuses on studying the effects of lowÂ temperaturesÂ 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 includeÂ proteins,Â cells,Â tissues,Â organs, or sometimes even wholeÂ organisms. It is a well known fact that this field of study is fast growing.
Biomechanics is an emerging field of biology andÂ can be defined as the application of mechanical principles to living organisms as well as the functional basic units of life which is theÂ cell.
Biomathematics or Mathematical Biology
Mathematical biologyÂ is an fascinating and fast growing field of biology where the current topics include the formulation and analysis ofÂ various mathematical models on living organisms, often in the forms of difference equations or differential equations.Â Analytical as well as numerical studies of such living models frequently present interesting and challenging dynamical system questions.
BiophysicsÂ is anÂ interdisciplinaryÂ field of study which makes use of methods ofÂ physicsÂ as well asÂ physical chemistryÂ to studyÂ biologicalÂ systems.Â Studies that are included under the branch of biophysics cover allÂ levels of biological organization, right from the molecular scale to whole organisms and sometimes even ecosystems. Research in biophysics shares significant overlap withÂ other fields of biology such as biochemistry,Â nanotechnology,Â bioengineering,Â agrophysicsÂ andÂ systems biology.
Computational biologyÂ is an interdisciplinary involving the disciplines of computer science as well as biology and applies the techniques ofÂ computer science,Â applied mathematicsÂ andÂ statisticsÂ to addressÂ 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 biologyÂ 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 ofÂ growth, differentiationÂ and "morphogenesis", which is the process that results in formation ofÂ tissues, organsÂ andÂ anatomy.
BiotechnologyÂ is generally called a field of appliedÂ biologyÂ 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 anÂ atomicÂ and molecularÂ scale. In general nanotechnology deals with structures of dimensions between 1 to 100Â nanometer in any way and involves developing materials or devices within that size.
ImmunologyÂ is a broad branch ofÂ biomedicalÂ science which in turn belongs to the discipline of biology that covers the study of all aspects of theÂ immune systemÂ in allÂ organisms. Â It focuses on obtaining knowledge on theÂ physiologicalÂ 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 andÂ interpretationÂ ofÂ signsÂ in theÂ biologicalÂ realm. This field of study attempts to integrate the findings of biology as a science andÂ semiotics, representing aÂ typical shiftÂ pertaining to the scientific view ofÂ life, thereby demonstrating theÂ immanent and intrinsic aspect of semiosisÂ which is basically a sign process, includingÂ meaningÂ and interpretation.
SociobiologyÂ is an interdisciplinary field of study which aims at explaining theÂ social behaviorÂ in animal speciesÂ by considering theÂ DarwinianÂ advantages specific behaviors may have. A major part of this field includes topics inÂ biologyÂ as well asÂ sociology, but also draws topics fromÂ other disciplines such as ethology,Â anthropology,Â evolution,Â zoology,Â archaeology, and population genetics. Pertaining to humanÂ societies, sociobiology is closely related to the fields ofÂ human behavioral ecologyÂ andÂ evolutionary psychology.
RadiobiologyÂ or better known asÂ radiation biology can be defined as anÂ interdisciplinaryÂ field of science that studies the biological effects ofÂ ionizingÂ andÂ non-ionizing radiationÂ of the wholeÂ electromagnetic spectrum which would includeÂ radioactivity,Â x-rays,Â ultraviolet radiation,Â visible light, microwaves,Â radio wave, low-frequency radiation and its related modalities. It is usually considered as a subtopic ofÂ biophysics.
PhotobiologyÂ is branch of biology and the scientific study of the interactions that occurs between lightÂ and livingÂ organisms. The field includes the study of various concepts such as photosynthesis,Â photomorphogenesis,Â visual processing,Â circadian rhythms,Â bioluminescence, andÂ ultravioletÂ radiation effects.
Marine biologyÂ is a branch of biology and the scientific study ofÂ organismsÂ thriving in theÂ oceanÂ or otherÂ marineÂ orÂ brackish bodies of water. ManyÂ species are found to live in theÂ seaÂ and the term marine biology is used to classify species based on theÂ environment rather than onÂ taxonomy. Marine biology differs fromÂ the field of marine ecologyÂ in the factor that marineÂ ecologyÂ focuses on how organisms interact with each other and environment andÂ marine biologyÂ is the study of the animal itself.
Gerontology, a branch of biology is the study of theÂ social,Â psychologicalÂ andÂ biological aspects ofÂ aging. It distinguishes itself fromÂ geriatrics by the fact that geriatrics is the branch of medicine that studies theÂ diseasesÂ that occur in the elderly.
BioinformaticsÂ is fast growing sub-discipline of biology and in short can be defined as the application ofÂ statisticsÂ andÂ computer scienceÂ to the field ofÂ 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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