Herpetology (from Greek
ἑρπετόν ''herpetón'', meaning "reptile" or "creeping animal") is the branch of zoology
concerned with the study of amphibian
s (including frog
s, and caecilians (gymnophiona
)) and reptile
s (including snake
ns, and the tuatara
, which are cladistically
included within Reptilia, are traditionally excluded here; the scientific study of birds is the subject of ornithology
Thus, the definition of herpetology can be more precisely stated as the study of ectothermic (cold-blooded) tetrapod
s. Under this definition "herps" (or sometimes "herptiles" or "herpetofauna") exclude fish, but it is not uncommon for herpetological and ichthyological
scientific societies to "team up", publishing joint journals and holding conferences in order to foster the exchange of ideas between the fields, as the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
does. Many herpetological societies
have been formed to promote interest in reptiles and amphibians, both captive and wild.
Herpetology offers benefits to humanity in the study of the role of amphibians and reptiles in global ecology
, especially because amphibians are often very sensitive to environmental changes, offering a visible warning to humans that significant changes are taking place. Some toxins and venoms produced by reptiles and amphibians are useful in human medicine. Currently, some snake venom has been used to create anti-coagulants
that work to treat strokes and heart attacks.
The word ''herpetology'' is from Greek
: ἑρπετόν, ''herpetón'', "creeping animal" and , ''-logia
'', "knowledge". People with an avid interest in herpetology and who keep different reptiles or amphibians often refer to themselves as "herpers".
"Herp" is a vernacular term for non-avian reptile
s and amphibian
s. It is derived from the old term "herpetile", with roots back to Linnaeus's
classification of animals, in which he grouped reptiles and amphibians together in the same class. There are over 6700 species
and over 9000 species of reptiles.
In spite of its modern taxonomic irrelevance, the term has persisted, particularly in the names of herpetology, the scientific study of non-avian reptiles and amphibians, and herpetoculture
, the captive care and breeding of reptiles and amphibians.
The field of herpetology can be divided into areas dealing with particular taxonomic
groups such as frogs (batrachology
snakes (ophiology or ophidiology), lizards (saurology) or turtles (cheloniology, chelonology or testudinology).
More generally, herpetologists work on functional problems in ecology
etc. of amphibians and reptiles. That is, they chose to use amphibians or reptiles as model organism
s for specific questions in these fields, such as the role of frogs in the ecology of a wetland
. All of these areas are related through their evolutionary history, e.g. the evolution of viviparity
(including behavior and reproduction
Career options in the field of herpetology include, but are not limited to lab research, field studies and survey, zoological staff, museum staff and college teaching.
In modern academic science, it is rare for individuals to consider themselves a herpetologist first and foremost. Most individuals focus on a particular field such as ecology
, or molecular biology
, and within that field ask questions pertaining to or best answered by examining reptiles and amphibians. For example, an evolutionary biologist who is also a herpetologist may choose to work on an issue such as the evolution of warning coloration in coral snake
Modern herpetological writers include Mark O'Shea
and Philip Purser
. Modern herpetological showmen include Jeff Corwin
, Steve Irwin
, popularly known as the "Crocodile Hunter", and the star Austin Stevens
, popularly known as "AustinSna keman" in the TV series ''Austin Stevens: Snakemaster
Most colleges or universities do not offer a major in herpetology at the undergraduate
or even the graduate level
. Instead, persons interested in herpetology select a major in the biological sciences
. The knowledge learned about all aspects of the biology of animals is then applied to an individual study of herpetology.
* List of herpetologists
* List of herpetology academic journals
*Adler, Kraig (1989). ''Contributions to the History of Herpetology''. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.
*Eatherley, Dan (2015). ''Bushmaster: Raymond Ditmars and the Hunt for the World's Largest Viper''. New York: Arcade. 320 pp. .
*Goin, Coleman J.
; Goin, Olive B.; Zug, George R.
(1978). ''Introduction to Herpetology, Third Edition''. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company. xi + 378 pp. .
Iranian Herpetological Studies Institute (IHSI)Field Herpetology GuideAmerican Society of Ichthyologists and HerpetologistsHerpetological Conservation and BiologySocietas Europaea Herpetologica
Distribution Maps for European Reptiles and AmphibiansCenter for North American Herpetology
over 500 species of reptiles and amphibiansEuropean Field Herping CommunityNew Zealand HerpetologyChicago Herpetological SocietyBiology of the Reptilia
is an online copy of the full text of a 22-volume 13,000-page summary of the state of research of reptiles.HerpMapper
is a database of reptile
sightingsAmphibian and Reptile Atlas of Peninsular California San Diego Natural History MuseumA Primer on Reptiles and Amphibians
Category:Subfields of zoology