You are on page 1of 14

Biology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia For other uses, see Biology (disambiguation).

Biology deals with the study of the many varieties of living organisms. Clockwise from top left Salmonella typhimurium (a type of bacteria), Phascolarctos cinereus (koala), Athyrium filixfemina (common lady!fern), Amanita muscaria (fly agaric, a to"ic toadstool), Agalychnis callidryas (red!eyed tree frog) and Brachypelma smithi (#e"ican $ed!kneed %arantula)
Part of a series on

Science
Formal sciences&show' (hysical sciences&show' )ife sciences&show' *ocial sciences&show'

+pplied sciences&show' ,nterdisciplinarity&show' (hilosophy and history of science&show'


-utline (ortal Category v t e

Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, and ta"onomy.&.' #odern biology is a vast and eclectic field, composed of many branches and subdisciplines. /owever, despite the broad scope of biology, there are certain general and unifying concepts within it that govern all study and research, consolidating it into single, coherent field. ,n general, biology recogni0es the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the synthesis and creation of new species. ,t is also understood today that all organisms survive by consuming and transforming energy and by regulating their internal environment to maintain a stable and vital condition. *ubdisciplines of biology are defined by the scale at which organisms are studied, the kinds of organisms studied, and the methods used to study them Biochemistry e"amines the rudimentary chemistry of life1 molecular biology studies the comple" interactions among biological molecules1 botany studies the biology of plants1 cellular biology e"amines the basic building! block of all life, the cell1 physiology e"amines the physical and chemical functions of tissues, organs, and organ systems of an organism1 evolutionary biology e"amines the processes that produced the diversity of life1 and ecology e"amines how organisms interact in their environment.&2'

Contents
. /istory 2 Foundations of modern biology o 2.. Cell theory o 2.2 3volution o 2.4 5enetics o 2.6 /omeostasis o 2.7 3nergy 4 *tudy and research o 4.. *tructural o 4.2 (hysiological

4.4 3volutionary o 4.6 *ystematic o 4.7 3cological and environmental 6 Basic unresolved problems in biology 7 Branches of biology 8 *ee also 9 :otes and references ; Bibliography < Further reading .= 3"ternal links
o

History
#ain article /istory of biology

3rnst /aeckel>s %ree of )ife (.;9<) %he term biology is derived from the 5reek word ?@AB, bios, ClifeC and the suffi" !DAE@F, -logia, Cstudy of.C&4'&6' %he )atin form of the term first appeared in .948 when )innaeus (Carl von )innG) used biologi in his Bibliotheca botanica. ,t was used again in .988 in a work entitled Philosophiae naturalis sive physicae: tomus III, continens geologian, biologian, phytologian generalis, by #ichael Christoph /anov, a disciple of Christian Wolff. %he first 5erman use, Biologie, was used in a .99. translation of )innaeus> work. ,n .9<9, %heodor 5eorg +ugust $oose used the term in a book, Grund !ge der "ehre van der "ebens#raft, in the preface. Harl Friedrich Burdach used the term in .;== in a more restricted sense of the study of human beings from a morphological, physiological and psychological perspective (Prop$deuti# um Studien der gesammten %eil#unst). %he term came into its modern usage with the si"!volume treatise

Biologie, oder Philosophie der lebenden &atur (.;=2I22) by 5ottfried $einhold %reviranus, who announced &7' %he 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. %he science that concerns itself with these obJects we will indicate by the name biology &Biologie' or the doctrine of life &)ebenslehre'. +lthough modern biology is a relatively recent development, sciences related to and included within it have been studied since ancient times. :atural philosophy was studied as early as the ancient civili0ations of #esopotamia, 3gypt, the ,ndian subcontinent, and China. /owever, the origins of modern biology and its approach to the study of nature are most often traced back to ancient 5reece.&8' While the formal study of medicine dates back to /ippocrates (ca. 68= BC I ca. 49= BC), it was +ristotle (4;6 BC I 422 BC) who contributed most e"tensively to the development of biology. 3specially important are his /istory of +nimals and other works where he showed naturalist leanings, and later more empirical works that focused on biological causation and the diversity of life. +ristotle>s successor at the )yceum, %heophrastus, wrote a series of books on botany that survived as the most important contribution of antiKuity to the plant sciences, even into the #iddle +ges.&9' *cholars of the medieval ,slamic world who wrote on biology included al!Lahi0 (9;.I;8<), +l! Minawari (;2;I;<8), who wrote on botany,&;' and $ha0es (;87I<27) who wrote on anatomy and physiology. #edicine was especially well studied by ,slamic scholars working in 5reek philosopher traditions, while natural history drew heavily on +ristotelian thought, especially in upholding a fi"ed hierarchy of life. Biology began to Kuickly develop and grow with +nton van )eeuwenhoek>s dramatic improvement of the microscope. ,t was then that scholars discovered spermato0oa, bacteria, infusoria and the diversity of microscopic life. ,nvestigations by Lan *wammerdam led to new interest in entomology and helped to develop the basic techniKues of microscopic dissection and staining.&<' +dvances in microscopy also had a profound impact on biological thinking. ,n the early .<th century, a number of biologists pointed to the central importance of the cell. %hen, in .;4;, *chleiden and *chwann began promoting the now universal ideas that (.) the basic unit of organisms is the cell and (2) that individual cells have all the characteristics of life, although they opposed the idea that (4) all cells come from the division of other cells. %hanks to the work of $obert $emak and $udolf Nirchow, however, by the .;8=s most biologists accepted all three tenets of what came to be known as cell theory.&.='&..' #eanwhile, ta"onomy and classification became the focus of natural historians. Carl )innaeus published a basic ta"onomy for the natural world in .947 (variations of which have been in use ever since), and in the .97=s introduced scientific names for all his species.&.2' 5eorges!)ouis )eclerc, Comte de Buffon, treated species as artificial categories and living forms as malleableO even suggesting the possibility of common descent. %hough he was opposed to evolution, Buffon is a key figure in the history of evolutionary thought1 his work influenced the evolutionary theories of both )amarck and Marwin.&.4' *erious evolutionary thinking originated with the works of Lean!Baptiste )amarck, who was the first to present a coherent theory of evolution.&.6' /e posited that evolution was the result of environmental stress on properties of animals, meaning that the more freKuently and rigorously an organ was used, the more comple" and efficient it would become, thus adapting the animal to its environment. )amarck believed that these acKuired traits could then be passed on to the

animal>s offspring, who would further develop and perfect them.&.7' /owever, it was the British naturalist Charles Marwin, combining the biogeographical approach of /umboldt, the uniformitarian geology of )yell, #althus>s writings on population growth, and his own morphological e"pertise and e"tensive natural observations, who forged a more successful evolutionary theory based on natural selection1 similar reasoning and evidence led +lfred $ussel Wallace to independently reach the same conclusions.&.8'&.9' +lthough it was the subJect of controversy (which continues to this day), Marwin>s theory Kuickly spread through the scientific community and soon became a central a"iom of the rapidly developing science of biology. %he discovery of the physical representation of heredity came along with evolutionary principles and population genetics. ,n the .<6=s and early .<7=s, e"periments pointed to M:+ as the component of chromosomes that held the trait!carrying units that had become known as genes. + focus on new kinds of model organisms such as viruses and bacteria, along with the discovery of the double helical structure of M:+ in .<74, marked the transition to the era of molecular genetics. From the .<7=s to present times, biology has been vastly e"tended in the molecular domain. %he genetic code was cracked by /ar 5obind Hhorana, $obert W. /olley and #arshall Warren :irenberg after M:+ was understood to contain codons. Finally, the /uman 5enome (roJect was launched in .<<= with the goal of mapping the general human genome. %his proJect was essentially completed in 2==4,&.;' with further analysis still being published. %he /uman 5enome (roJect was the first step in a globali0ed 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


Cell theory
#ain article Cell theory Cell theory states that the cell is the fundamental unit of life, and that all living things are composed of one or more cells or the secreted products of those cells (e.g. shells). +ll cells arise from other cells through cell division. ,n multicellular organisms, every cell in the organism>s body derives ultimately from a single cell in a fertili0ed egg. %he cell is also considered to be the basic unit in many pathological processes.&.<' ,n addition, the phenomenon of energy flow occurs in cells in processes that are part of the function known as metabolism. Finally, cells contain hereditary information (M:+), which is passed from cell to cell during cell division.

Evolution

:atural selection of a population for dark coloration. #ain article 3volution + central organi0ing concept in biology is that life changes and develops through evolution, and that all life!forms known have a common origin. %he theory of evolution postulates that all organisms on the 3arth, both living and e"tinct, have descended from a common ancestor or an ancestral gene pool. %his last universal common ancestor of all organisms is believed to have appeared about 4.7 billion years ago.&2=' Biologists generally regard the universality and ubiKuity 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).&2.' ,ntroduced into the scientific le"icon by Lean!Baptiste de )amarck in .;=<,&22' evolution was established by Charles Marwin fifty years later as a viable scientific model when he articulated its driving force natural selection.&24'&26'&27' (+lfred $ussel Wallace is recogni0ed as the co! discoverer of this concept as he helped research and e"periment with the concept of evolution.) &28' 3volution is now used to e"plain the great variations of life found on 3arth. Marwin theori0ed that species and breeds developed through the processes of natural selection and artificial selection or selective breeding.&29' 5enetic drift was embraced as an additional mechanism of evolutionary development in the modern synthesis of the theory.&2;' %he evolutionary history of the speciesOwhich describes the characteristics of the various species from which it descendedOtogether with its genealogical relationship to every other species is known as its phylogeny. Widely varied approaches to biology generate information about phylogeny. %hese include the comparisons of M:+ seKuences conducted within molecular biology or genomics, and comparisons of fossils or other records of ancient organisms in paleontology.&2<' Biologists organi0e and analy0e 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.)

+ (unnett sKuare depicting a cross between two pea plants hetero0ygous for purple (B) and white (b) blossoms

Genetics
#ain article 5enetics 5enes are the primary units of inheritance in all organisms. + gene is a unit of heredity and corresponds to a region of M:+ that influences the form or function of an organism in specific ways. +ll organisms, from bacteria to animals, share the same basic machinery that copies and translates M:+ into proteins. Cells transcribe a M:+ gene into an $:+ version of the gene, and a ribosome then translates the $:+ into a protein, a seKuence of amino acids. %he translation code from $:+ codon to amino acid is the same for most organisms, but slightly different for some. For e"ample, a seKuence of M:+ that codes for insulin in humans also codes for insulin when inserted into other organisms, such as plants.&4=' M:+ usually occurs as linear chromosomes in eukaryotes, and circular chromosomes in prokaryotes. + chromosome is an organi0ed structure consisting of M:+ and histones. %he 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. ,n eukaryotes, genomic M:+ is located in the cell nucleus, along with small amounts in mitochondria and chloroplasts. ,n prokaryotes, the M:+ is held within an irregularly shaped body in the cytoplasm called the nucleoid.&4.' %he genetic information in a genome is held within genes, and the complete assemblage of this information in an organism is called its genotype.&42'

Homeostasis
#ain article /omeostasis

%he hypothalamus secretes C$/, which directs the pituitary gland to secrete +C%/. ,n turn, +C%/ directs the adrenal corte" to secrete glucocorticoids, such as cortisol. %he 5Cs then reduce the rate of secretion by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland once a sufficient amount of 5Cs has been released.&44' /omeostasis is the ability of an open system to regulate its internal environment to maintain stable conditions by means of multiple dynamic eKuilibrium adJustments controlled by interrelated regulation mechanisms. +ll living organisms, whether unicellular or multicellular, e"hibit homeostasis.&46' %o maintain dynamic eKuilibrium and effectively carry out certain functions, a system must detect and respond to perturbations. +fter the detection of a perturbation, a biological system normally responds through negative feedback. %his means stabili0ing conditions by either reducing or increasing the activity of an organ or system. -ne e"ample is the release of glucagon when sugar levels are too low.

Basic overview of energy and human life.

Energy
%he 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 e"tract energy from substances that act as its food and transform them to help form new cells and sustain them. ,n this process, molecules of chemical substances that constitute food play two roles1 first, they contain energy

that can be transformed for biological chemical reactions1 second, they develop new molecular structures made up of biomolecules. %he organisms responsible for the introduction of energy into an ecosystem are known as producers or autotrophs. :early all of these organisms originally draw energy from the sun.&47' (lants and other phototrophs use solar energy via a process known as photosynthesis to convert raw materials into organic molecules, such as +%(, whose bonds can be broken to release energy. &48' + few ecosystems, however, depend entirely on energy e"tracted by chemotrophs from methane, sulfides, or other non!luminal energy sources.&49' *ome of the captured energy is used to produce biomass to sustain life and provide energy for growth and development. %he maJority of the rest of this energy is lost as heat and waste molecules. %he most important processes for converting the energy trapped in chemical substances into energy useful to sustain life are metabolism&4;' and cellular respiration.&4<'

Study and research


Structural
#ain articles #olecular biology, Cell biology, 5enetics, and Mevelopmental biology

*chematic of typical animal cell depicting the various organelles and structures. #olecular biology is the study of biology at a molecular level.&6=' %his field overlaps with other areas of biology, particularly with genetics and biochemistry. #olecular biology chiefly concerns itself with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interrelationship of M:+, $:+, 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. %his is done on both the microscopic and molecular levels, for unicellular organisms such as bacteria, as well as the speciali0ed cells in multicellular organisms such as humans. Pnderstanding the structure and function of cells is fundamental to all of the biological sciences. %he similarities and differences between cell types are particularly relevant to molecular biology. +natomy considers the forms of macroscopic structures such as organs and organ systems.&6.' 5enetics is the science of genes, heredity, and the variation of organisms.&62'&64' 5enes encode the information necessary for synthesi0ing proteins, which in turn play a central role in influencing the final phenotype of the organism. ,n 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 M:+ molecules. Mevelopmental biology studies the process by which organisms grow and develop. -riginating in embryology, modern developmental biology studies the genetic control of cell growth, differentiation, and Cmorphogenesis,C which is the process that progressively gives rise to tissues, organs, and anatomy. #odel organisms for developmental biology include the round worm 'aenorhabditis elegans,&66' the fruit fly (rosophila melanogaster,&67' the 0ebrafish (anio rerio,&68' the mouse )us musculus,&69' and the weed Arabidopsis thaliana.&6;'&6<' (+ model organism is a species that is e"tensively studied to understand particular biological phenomena, with the e"pectation that discoveries made in that organism provide insight into the workings of other organisms.)&7='

Physiological
#ain article (hysiology (hysiology studies the mechanical, physical, and biochemical processes of living organisms by attempting to understand how all of the structures function as a whole. %he theme of Cstructure to functionC is central to biology. (hysiological studies have traditionally been divided into plant physiology and animal physiology, but some principles of physiology are universal, no matter what particular organism is being studied. For e"ample, what is learned about the physiology of yeast cells can also apply to human cells. %he field of animal physiology e"tends the tools and methods of human physiology to non!human species. (lant physiology borrows techniKues from both research fields. (hysiology studies how for e"ample nervous, immune, endocrine, respiratory, and circulatory systems, function and interact. %he study of these systems is shared with medically oriented disciplines such as neurology and immunology.

Evolutionary
3volutionary research is concerned with the origin and descent of species, as well as their change over time, and includes scientists from many ta"onomically oriented disciplines. For e"ample, it generally involves scientists who have special training in particular organisms such as mammalogy, ornithology, botany, or herpetology, but use those organisms as systems to answer general Kuestions about evolution. 3volutionary biology is partly based on paleontology, which uses the fossil record to answer Kuestions about the mode and tempo of evolution,&7.' and partly on the developments in areas such as population genetics.&72' ,n the .<;=s, developmental biology re!entered evolutionary biology from its initial e"clusion from the modern synthesis through the study of evolutionary developmental biology.&74' $elated fields often considered part of evolutionary biology are phylogenetics, systematics, and ta"onomy.

Systematic

+ phylogenetic tree of all living things, based on r$:+ gene data, showing the separation of the three domains bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes as described initially by Carl Woese. %rees constructed with other genes are generally similar, although they may place some early! branching groups very differently, presumably owing to rapid r$:+ evolution. %he e"act relationships of the three domains are still being debated.

%he hierarchy of biological classification>s eight maJor ta"onomic ranks. ,ntermediate minor rankings are not shown. %his diagram uses a 4 Momains Q 8 Hingdoms format #ain article *ystematics #ultiple speciation events create a tree structured system of relationships between species. %he role of systematics is to study these relationships and thus the differences and similarities between species and groups of species.&76' /owever, systematics was an active field of research long before evolutionary thinking was common.&77' %raditionally, living things have been divided into five kingdoms #onera1 (rotista1 Fungi1 (lantae1 +nimalia.&78' /owever, many scientists now consider this five!kingdom system outdated. #odern alternative classification systems generally begin with the three!domain system +rchaea (originally +rchaebacteria)1 Bacteria (originally 3ubacteria) and 3ukaryota (including protists, fungi, plants, and animals)&79' %hese domains reflect whether the cells have nuclei or not, as well as differences in the chemical composition of key biomolecules such as ribosomes.&79'

Further, each kingdom is broken down recursively until each species is separately classified. %he order is Momain1 Hingdom1 (hylum1 Class1 -rder1 Family1 5enus1 *pecies. -utside of these categories, there are obligate intracellular parasites that are Con the edge of lifeC&7;' 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 or characteristics that define life. %hey are classified as viruses, viroids, prions, or satellites. %he scientific name of an organism is generated from its genus and species. For e"ample, humans are listed as %omo sapiens. %omo is the genus, and sapiens the species. When writing the scientific name of an organism, it is proper to capitali0e the first letter in the genus and put all of the species in lowercase. +dditionally, the entire term may be italici0ed or underlined.&7<'&8=' %he dominant classification system is called the )innaean ta"onomy. ,t includes ranks and binomial nomenclature. /ow organisms are named is governed by international agreements such as the ,nternational Code of Botanical :omenclature (,CB:), the ,nternational Code of Roological :omenclature (,CR:), and the ,nternational Code of :omenclature of Bacteria (,C:B). %he classification of viruses, viroids, prions, and all other sub!viral agents that demonstrate biological characteristics is conducted by the ,nternational Committee on %a"onomy of Niruses (,C%N) and is known as the ,nternational Code of Niral Classification and :omenclature (,CNC:).&8.'&82'&84'&86' /owever, several other viral classification systems do e"ist. + merging draft, BioCode, was published in .<<9 in an attempt to standardi0e nomenclature in these three areas, but has yet to be formally adopted.&87' %he BioCode draft has received little attention since .<<91 its originally planned implementation date of Lanuary ., 2===, has passed unnoticed. + revised BioCode that, instead of replacing the e"isting codes, would provide a unified conte"t for them, was proposed in 2=...&88'&89'&8;' /owever, the ,nternational Botanical Congress of 2=.. declined to consider the BioCode proposal. %he ,CNC: remains outside the BioCode, which does not include viral classification.

Ecological and environmental

#utual symbiosis between clownfish of the genus +mphiprion that dwell among the tentacles of tropical sea anemones. %he 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. #ain articles 3cology, 3thology, Behavior, and Biogeography 3cology studies the distribution and abundance of living organisms, and the interactions between organisms and their environment.&8<' %he 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.&9=' -ne 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. + microscopic bacterium in a local sugar gradient is responding to its environment as much as a lion searching for food in the +frican savanna. For any species, behaviors can be co!operative, competitive, parasitic, or symbiotic. #atters become more comple" when two or more species interact in an ecosystem. 3cological systems are studied at several different levels, from individuals and populations to ecosystems and the biosphere. %he term population biology is often used interchangeably with population ecology, although population biology is more freKuently used when studying diseases, viruses, and microbes, while population ecology is more commonly used when studying plants and animals. 3cology draws on many subdisciplines. 3thology studies animal behavior (particularly that of social animals such as primates and canids), and is sometimes considered a branch of 0oology. 3thologists have been particularly concerned with the evolution of behavior and the understanding of behavior in terms of the theory of natural selection. ,n one sense, the first modern ethologist was Charles Marwin, whose book, *he +xpression of the +motions in )an and Animals, influenced many ethologists to come.&9.' Biogeography studies the spatial distribution of organisms on the 3arth, focusing on topics like plate tectonics, climate change, dispersal and migration, and cladistics.

Basic unresolved problems in biology


#ain article )ist of unsolved problems in biology Mespite the profound advances made over recent decades in our understanding of lifeSs fundamental processes, some basic problems have remained unresolved. For e"ample, one of the maJor unresolved problems in biology is the primary adaptive function of se", and particularly its key processes in eukaryotes, meiosis and homologous recombination. -ne view is that se" evolved primarily as an adaptation for increasing genetic diversity (see references e.g.&92'&94'). +n alternative view is that se" is an adaptation for promoting accurate M:+ repair in germ!line M:+, and that increased genetic diversity is primarily a byproduct that may be useful in the long run.&96'&97' (*ee also 3volution of se"ual reproduction). +nother basic unresolved problem in biology is the biologic basis of aging. +t present, there is no consensus view on the underlying cause of aging. Narious competing theories are outlined in +geingT%heories.