Herpetology is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians (including frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and gymnophionae) and reptiles (including snakes, lizards, amphisbaenids, turtles, terrapins, tortoises, crocodilians, and the tuataras). Batrachology is a further subdiscipline of herpetology concerned with the study of amphibians alone.
Herpetology is concerned with poikilothermic, ectothermic tetrapods. "Herps" (or sometimes "herptiles" or "herpetofauna") exclude fish. However, 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. One of the most prestigious organizations, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, is an example of this. Many herpetological societies exist today, having 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 stroke victims and heart attack cases.
The word "herpetology" is from Greek: ἑρπήτόν, herpeton, "creeping animal" and -λογία, -logia. People with an avid interest in herpetology and who keep different reptiles or amphibians often refer to themselves as "herpers".
There are many careers in the field of herpetology. These include, but are not limited to, field research, public and private breeding, zoological staff or curating, museum staff or curating and college teaching.
Those wishing to pursue a career in herpetology must have a strong science and math background. Few universities offer this program, and thus it is a highly competitive field.
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, evolution, taxonomy, physiology, 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 how warning coloration evolved in coral snakes.
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