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Chapter 1: An Introduction

Zoology is the scientific study of animal life.
Animals differ from one another in size, structure, manner of life, and other features
and over the years, man has accumulated tremendous amounts of information about them.
Yet, we have so much more to learn about them. Zoology will enrich your own life by
helping you understand the fascinating diversity of creatures that share this planet with
But, before we go into any actual study of any animal, it is first essential for us to
understand this definition of zoology. What do we mean by “scientific”? What are the
characteristics of living things? What constitutes life? What are animals? What
differentiates them from other living things?
Science is a process for evaluating experimental and observed knowledge (the
scientific method), a global community of scholars, and the organized body of knowledge
gained by this process and carried by this community (and others). Natural sciences study
nature; social sciences study human beings and society. The basic commitment of science
is to collect objective data (facts that are observable and measurable) and then reach
conclusions and formulate generalizations by analyzing such data.
Scientists collect data either by observation or by controlled experimentation. When
collecting data by observation, scientist must ensure that the data are as free as possible
of subjective bias, recorded and analyzed instrumentally when possible, and extensive
enough so that such factors as range of variability can be defined, preferably statistically.
When collecting data by experimentation, scientists begin by asking questions,
which they then try to answer. A testable question is called a hypothesis. Hypotheses are
often tested by means of a controlled experiment, in which one or more experimental
groups are compared with one or more control groups, under conditions that are held
standard except for one factor, the variable. The number of organisms used is important:
an experiment based on only a few test organisms is apt to be non-predictive and
Upon reaching a conclusion, the scientist tries to form a generalization and compares
this generalization to others. A generalization that represents a cohesive statement of
principle is known as a theory. It should be pointed out that no matter how firm the
database upon which a scientific theory rests, the theory must always remain subject to
revision in the light of additional data.
The Scientific Method
“Scientific” study involves a system that scientists use to get to the bottom of things.
The observation of living things has generated a lot of questions about them. How they
came to be? How are plants constructed? How do animals move? Why are animals and
plants important? Scientists answer these and other questions by using an experiment-
based process called the scientific method.
The scientific method is a systematic way to describe and explain phenomena based
on observing, comparing, reasoning, predicting, testing concluding, and interpreting. This
is what science is all about. Rather than just being a set of facts that describe and explain
the universe, science is a dynamic process wherein the excitement lies in the intriguing
observations and carefully crafted experiments devised to help us learn more about the
world around us.
The scientific method begins with observations that prompt us to ask the cause of
these observations. These causal questions lie at the heart of the scientific method.
Science is fundamentally about finding answers to these kinds of questions. To find
answers to these questions, scientists use past experiences, ideas, and observations to
propose hypotheses that may produce predictions. To determine if these predictions are
accurate, scientists perform experiments. If the experimental results match the predictions
of a hypothesis, the hypothesis is accepted; if they don’t, the hypothesis is rejected. The
effect of this is to make scientific progress by revealing answers piece by piece.
By testing a single hypothesis, a scientist has not ruled out other possible causes for
an observation. To do so, he would have to devise alternative hypotheses, make
predictions for them, and obtain experimental results to compare with the predictions. By
this process, he may be able to reject all his hypotheses. Either way, he makes progress
by testing several hypotheses, not just one.
Although the scientific method is a powerful tool for answering some kinds of
question, it is not foolproof. Most experiments do not distinguish other possible
interpretations. Most of the time it is impossible to recreate conditions in the laboratory
or consider all factors that influence the occurrence of events.
Any conclusion marks an end to the scientific method for a particular experiment but
it seldom ends the process of scientific inquiry. To the curious scientific mind, a
conclusion is never the final answer. There is always something more to study, something
new to learn.
A Short History of Animal Life
Although it is impossible to replicate conditions that happened billions of years ago,
scientists through experimentation and deductive reasoning have come up with theories
regarding the origin of life.
The most ancient rocks found to date occur in western Australia and are about 4.2
billion years old. The oldest well-preserved fossils known to date are unicellular
prokaryotes buried in silt that became the 3.4 billion-year-old sedimentary strata of the
Fig Tree Group formation in South Africa.
The earliest organic molecules probably formed abiotically, at a time when oxygen
was lacking in the atmosphere. The heat of thermal springs may well have provided the
first bonding energy for generating organic molecules and the first molecular or cellular
unit that could be considered living in the sense of reproducing itself and taking up
additional materials as nutrients from the environment. The sun provided an enduring and
reliable flow of free energy for early organisms to tap. The simplest modern organisms
that carry on photosynthesis are indeed prokaryotes, mostly known as cyanophytes (blue-
green algae). When eukaryotic cells evolved, some are thought to have acquired as
internal symbionts cyanophytes that survived ingestion to become chloroplasts of these
new autotrophic organisms.
The entire period from 3.5 to 1 billion years ago may be referred to as the “age of
blue-green algae” because during their long reign the blue-greens not only flourished but
changed forever the composition of the earth’s atmosphere. They gave off great quantities
of oxygen gas as waste product of photosynthesis.
Cells with nuclei first appear in sedimentary strata about 1.5 billion years old. The 1
billion-year-old Bitter Springs Formation of Australia contains beautifully preserved
green algae (chlorophytes) showing nuclei and even nuclear division. To date, no
evidence of multi-cellular life (other than algae) has been found in rocks other than about
700 million years. The best-preserved fossil assemblage of this age comes from the
Ediacara Hills of Australia and includes a variety of soft-bodied metazoans: jellyfish,
corals, segmented worms, together with a number of puzzling forms of unknown
affinities. The scarcity of fossiliferous strata older than this seems to have been caused by
a series of Precambrian glaciations that deeply eroded most continental surfaces.
The Paleozoic Era. The Paleozoic Era spans 370 million years, from the beginning
of the Cambrian Period to the end of the Permian Period.
At the beginning of the Cambrian Period, a remarkable proliferation and
diversification of invertebrate life took place within what appears to have been only a few
million years. As a result, all of today’s major animal phyla, and several long extinct
ones, are present in rocks of that age. The cause of this proliferation and diversification
remains obscure. For one thing, the build-up of atmospheric O2 may have reached the
concentrations necessary for this gas to diffuse downward throughout water masses so
that bottom-dwelling creatures could begin to flourish. Then too, perhaps the extensive
erosion caused by Precambrian glaciations raised marine concentrations of dissolved
minerals, especially calcium, to some critical threshold necessary for the optimal
functioning of nerves and muscles and the deposition of shells and skeletons.
Over the ensuing 75 million years of the Ordovician Period, invertebrates and multi-
cellular plants colonized the land, and vertebrate fishes appeared. During the Silurian
Period, the first jawed fishes appeared and so flourished that the 50 million years of the
ensuing Devonian Period are known as the “age of the fishes.” Amphibian fossils first
appeared in rocks of later Devonian age, as the earliest land vertebrates. These animals
characterized the 65 million-year Carboniferous Period (sometimes called the “age of
amphibians”) but declined during the 50 million years of cooling and drying climates that
marked the Permian Period. Reptiles, which diverged from early amphibian stock during
the Carboniferous, were not so disadvantaged by these changes and began to proliferate
and spread.
Towards the end of the Paleozoic, drifting continents caused by expanding seafloors
collided to form a supercontinent we call Pangaea. The continental collisions that ended
the Paleozoic obliterated intervening marine habitats, allowed the terrestrial biota of
previously isolated land masses to come into competition, and triggered a period of
mountain building that affected climate and drained continental seas. Nearly half the
known families of animal life became extinct.
The Mesozoic Era. The Mesozoic is known as the “age of reptiles” for these became
the dominant vertebrates and diversified into many forms, including the largest creatures
that have ever walked the earth, marine species as massive as whales, and the most
spectacular animals ever to soar the skies. The geographic spread of reptiles was
facilitated by the fact that the land they so successfully invaded was the “one world” of
The Jurassic Period saw the advent of birds and mammals and the start of the
breakup of Pangaea, carrying terrestrial organisms apart, to new climates and destinies.
The drifting continents fragmented further during the Cretaceous Period, while reptiles

continued to dominate the earth. Then something catastrophic took place: almost
suddenly some 25 percent of all existing animal families disappeared, not only the
dinosaurs and other still-successful reptilian groups, but a wide variety of marine
invertebrates from giant ammonites (a type of mollusk) down to microscopic
zooplankton. So far as we can tell, no Mesozoic land animal with a body mass over 25 kg
survived into the Cenozoic.
Time Era Periods and Epochs
Scale Cenozoic Tertiary
whales carnivores humans horses elephants

primitive mammals
13 turtles snakes dinosaurs
5 Jurassic toothed birds
Mesozoic plesiosaurs winged reptiles ichthyosaurs insects
18 Triassic

28 primitive reptiles
34 blastoids amphibians
5 crinoids sharks
Devonian bony fishes scorpions

40 sea stars, etc lobefins arachnids
42 Paleozoic Silurian cystoids placoderms limulus
5 Ordovician
50 mollusks eurypterids
0 echinoderms

brachiopods trilobites
60 crustaceans annelids
Archeozoic protozoans sponges
Fig. 1.1. Distribution of major animal groups in the geologic record. Solid curving lines commence at
time when each group first appeared, with broken lines indicating presumed earlier origins. Lines
terminating with a  indicate when certain groups became extinct.; those ending in an arrow indicate
that the group contains modern descendants. The time scale is in millions of years. (Modified from
Jessop, 1995)

In various parts of the world a thin layer of clay rich in iridium (an element common
in meteorites) and soot separates a rich fossil record from a very sparse fossil record
marking the onset of the Cenozoic Era. This suggests that a large meteorite impacted the
earth, ejecting into the stratosphere such an enormous amount of particulate matter that
months of darkness ensued, with plummeting temperatures and suppression of
photosynthesis. Soot may have come from fire storms caused as continent-wide forests
were ignited by the passage through the atmosphere of such a massive extraterrestrial
object. Smoke from such fire storms would have intensified and prolonged the crisis of
darkness and cold. Many animals would die of starvation or cold during the long
Surprisingly, it appears that such mass extinction events have occurred with a
periodicity of about 26 million years for as far back as such events can be traced.
Scientists have come up with possible explanations why such events are so regular. If our
sun, like many stars, is one of a binary pair, it may have a small companion star (already
named “Nemesis”) with an orbit so eccentric that it passes through the solar system only
once in 26 million years, towing a mass of comets collected from the dense Oort comet
cloud that lies beyond Pluto. Alternatively, the unidentified celestial object may be a
planet with a less far-flung orbit, which intersects Earth’s orbit only every 26 million
years with its gravitational train of comets. Either way, this unknown celestial object may
not be readily found, for it should now be at about its farthest point from the sun, not due
to return for another 13 million years.
The most profound effect of mass extinctions is that the survivors proliferate in a
depopulated world providing opportunity for a great variety of genetic variants. Under
these circumstances, evolution of a new biota can take place quite rapidly until the
environment is again “saturated” with enough different life forms to maintain stable
ecosystems over long periods of time. However, if a mass extinction is excessively
severe, little may remain from which new forms can evolve.
The Cenozoic Era. The past 65 million years have witnessed the explosive
proliferation of birds and mammals. Hominid (human-like) fossils (mostly found in
Africa) have been dated at an age of about 3 million years (Australopithecus afarensis),
1.7 million years (Homo habilis), and 1.5 million years for Homo erectus, with skulls
transitional to Homo sapiens dating from 250,000 to 350,000 years ago.
Although we have named ourselves “wise man,” to most of the living world we are
catastrophe personified, for countless animal and plant species have diminished into
endangerment or extinction as Homo sapiens has proliferated. Awareness and concern
can still turn the tide, if we really are wise enough to conserve our biological heritage and
guard ourselves, too, from extinction.
Characteristics of Living Things
Living things have common themes that separate them from non-living things. All
living things have organization, undergo metabolism, growth and reproduction, respond
and adapt to changes in the environment.
Organization. All living things are made up of cells. Some organisms are made up
of only one cell (unicellular) while others are made up of more than one (multi-cellular).
In multi-cellular organisms, each cell has specific functions and specific roles in keeping
the organism alive. Even within cells, specific structures have their own functions and
roles. Even beyond the organism level, we find that organisms often group themselves
into populations. Populations of different species make up a community which is part of
an ecosystem which makes up the biosphere.
Metabolism. All living things undergo metabolism. Metabolism is the collective
term for all the essential biochemical processes that go on inside the body. Digestion,
respiration, photosynthesis, and the elimination of waste materials are only some of the
processes constantly in progress. There are two phases of metabolism. Anabolism is the
constructive or building up phase while catabolism is the destructive or breaking down
Growth. Living things grow and develop. Growth involves increase in size (increase
in the number of cells for multi-cellular animals) and development involves change in
shape and form.
Reproduction. Living things reproduce. Reproduction is necessary for the
perpetuation of the species. Reproduction can be asexual (single parent) or sexual
(recombination of genes from two interacting parents).
Irritability / Responsiveness. Irritability is defined as the ability of an organism to
respond to stimuli. The stimulus may be simple, such as in bacteria moving away from or
toward a heat source. It may be complex i.e. a bird responding to a complicated series of
signals in a courtship ritual.
Adaptation. Adaptation is the ability of an organism to change in response to the
environment. The process of changing to promote survival includes: adaptability of the
individual organism in direct response to some specific challenge and mutability
(alteration) of genes and chromosomes producing a range of variability in offspring. Each
species, whether plant or animal, exhibits an adaptation to the environment distinct from
other animals.
Living things are classified on the basis of evolutionary relationships that exist
among them. Modern scientists usually recognize five major kingdoms that represent all
known species of living things. The table below shows the five kingdoms and the major
differences that exist between them.
Kingdom Type of Cell Cell Organelles Cellular Organization Representative
Monera Prokaryotic No membrane around Unicellular and/or Blue-green
organelles, no plastids, colonial algae, bacteria
no mitochondria
Protista Eukaryotic All cell organelles Unicellular and/or Protozoa
Plantae Eukaryotic with Present but cells simpler Multicellular with Higher plants
walls tissues
Fungi Eukaryotic Lack plastids and Syncytial Mushrooms,
photosynthetic pigments molds
Animalia Eukaryotic Lack plastids and Multicellular with Any animal
without walls photosynthetic pigments tissues
Table 1.1. Characteristics of five kingdoms (Modified from Storer et al, 6th Ed., 1979)
Plants vs. Animals. Although the basic unit of structure and function of both plants
and animals is the eukaryotic cell and plant and animal cells are so much alike as to
strongly suggest a common ancestor, there are two salient points of difference: (1) animal
cells lack chloroplasts; and (2) animal cells are not enclosed in cell walls.

Other differences are noted in the table below.
Animals Plants
Mode of Heterotrophic (do not photosynthesize, Autotrophic (carry out photo synthesis,
nutrition lack chloroplasts) contain chloroplasts)
Extent of Determinate Indeterminate
Cell Wall Absent Made up of cellulose, rigid, inert
Nervous Present in most Absent
Mobility Mostly mobile Mostly immobile
Primary Food Glycogen (multiply branched glucose Starch (unbranched glucose chain),
Reserve chain), saturated fats unsaturated oils
CO2 and nitrogenous wastes, kidneys O2 from photosynthesis, CO2 from
needed in most animals metabolism, kidneys not needed since
nitrogenous wastes not generated
Table 1.2. Some major differences between animals and plants (Modified from Glinoga)
Importance of Zoology
Animals are very important to people. Understanding how they function enables one
to make wise decisions about many things that affect the individual, family, and the
community. The use of organism to produce consumer needs is called biotechnology. Use
of bacteria to turn milk into cheese or the use of live yeast to make bread rise are
techniques of biotechnology. Farming, pest control, livestock management, nutrition,
food processing, and food preservation also involve biotechnology. Animals provide us
with food, non-edible economic products, biomedical products, research material. They
also have ecological, aesthetic, and affectional value.
Food. Livestock, game, fish, shellfish, honey, eggs, dairy products, exotic fare such
as insects, grubs, and highly relished Palolo worms are just some examples of animals
and animal products that we eat to nourish our bodies.
Transport and Labor. Horses, donkeys, llamas, camels, dogs, oxen, buffalos, and
elephants are all still used in different parts of the world for transport and labor.
Non-edible Economic Products. Leather, down, fur, silk, wool, ivory, limestone,
chalk have various uses as clothing, shoes, accessories and ornaments.
Biomedical Products. We use venom from snakes to make anti-venom. Pig heart
valves may be used to replace diseased human heart valves. Insulin and antibodies for
protective inoculation against various diseases are of animal origin.
Research. Laboratory animals are used to create animal models of human diseases
and their treatment.
Ecological Value. Animals are essential parts of the food chain Plant eaters
(herbivores) are a source of food for carnivores (meat eaters) and omnivores (plant and
meat eaters). They are also essential for the pollination of most flowers and as agents of
Aesthetic Value. Animals have been subjects and inspirations for works of arts, from
cave paintings to present day creations. Some cultures revere totem animals and cultivate
in themselves the positive attributes they perceive in animals.
Affectional Value. Pets and residents in wildlife parks fulfill various non-economic
human needs. They are even used by some psychotherapists in their work with patients.

Branches of Zoology
Since zoology presents a wide range of topics, scientists often choose a specific
category to study. Some zoologists, for example, devote their time to studying animals
belonging to one particular taxonomic group. Others study one or more aspects of animal
structure, function, or behavior, often using a comparative approach. Here are only a few
of the branches of science that fall under the scientific study of animal life.
Taxonomy – classification and naming of plants and animals
Botany – plant life
Zoology – animal life
Protozoology – animals that are basically unicellular
Helminthology – worms (mainly parasitic)
Entomology – insects
Parasitology – organisms that live and subsist on or in other organisms
Ichthyology – fishes
Herpetology – amphibians and reptiles
Ornithology – birds
Biochemistry – chemical compounds and processes in living organisms
Molecular biology – molecules and processes in cells
Cytology – cell structures and function
Histology – microscopic structure of tissues
Gross anatomy – non-microscopic structures of organisms
Embryology – growth and development of the new individual
Physiology – living processes or functions within organisms
Nutrition – use and conversion of food substances
Genetics – hereditary traits and their transmission
Ecology – relationships between biotic (living) and abiotic (physicochemical)
Important Contributors to Zoology

Our present knowledge about this subject is based on previous works of past
scientists. Zoology would not be as advanced as it is today if not for the great pioneers of
the science. Here are only some of the scientists who contributed greatly to the scientific
study of living things.
Aristotle, 350 B.C. – description of plants and animals and theories of hereditary
production and evolution

Robert Hooke, 1665 – coined the term “cell” describing the texture of cork using
magnifying lenses
Anton von Leeuwenhoek, 1667 – microscopic discovery of bacteria, protozoa and
Fig. 1.2. Carolus Linnaeus

Carolus Linnaeus, 1735 – basis for modern classification of living things; binomial
Matthias Schleiden (a botanist) and Theodor Schwann (a zoologist), 1839 – put forth the
thesis that cells were the units of structure in plants and animals.

Rudolf Virchow, 1855 – stressed the role of the cell in pathology and stated that all cells
came from pre-existing cells “Omni cellulae e cullula”
Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, 1859 – foundations of modern theory of evolution
Louis Pasteur, 1860 – conclusive experimental refutation of the theory of spontaneous
Gregor Mendel, 1865 – foundations of genetics

Fig. 1.3. Gregor Mendel

James Watson and Francis Crick, 1953 – discovered the structure of DNA