Research Journal of Zoology

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Review Article, Res J Zool Vol: 1 Issue: 1

Modern Zoology as a “Classical” Branch of Biology has Developed to Play an Integrative Role with a Focus on the Whole Organism

Schwerte T*

Institute of Zoology, University of Innsbruck, Techniker Str. 25, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria

*Corresponding Author : Thorsten Schwerte
Institute of Zoology, University of Innsbruck, Techniker Str. 25, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Tel: 004351250751862
Fax: 00435125072930
E-mail: [email protected]

Received: October 04, 2017 Accepted: Janurary 03, 2018 Published: Janurary 08, 2018

Citation: Schwerte T (2018) Modern Zoology as a “Classical” Branch of Biology has Developed to Play an Integrative Role with a Focus on the Whole Organism. Res J Zool 1:1.

Abstract

The concept of zoology as a single coherent field arose over the 18th and 19th century. It has been influenced by the systems theory and advances in the modern molecular biological methodology. As a consequence, zoology split into many specialized fields and “organisms” were more and more replaced by “systems”. This study intends to identify conceptual changes in zoological research publications by data mining the bibliographic entries of the online database PubMed for topic-specific keywords that may reveal changes in the ratio of molecular and whole organism level in zoology publications (1918-2017). For this, major and minor topics of the publications were counted with the data mining tool RefViz (Thomson Research). The top 64 of these lists were distinguished to be on the molecular or on the whole organism level. The results indicate an increase in whole organism based zoological publications while those on the molecular level were decreasing.

Keywords: Zoology; Natural History; Ecosystem

Abbreviations

5-ht: 5-Hydroxytryptamine; Ache: Acetylcholinesterase; Ae: Aedes (Mosquito); Ag: Silver; Gnps: Silver Nano Particles; Ar: Androgen Receptor; ca2+: Calcium; Cd: Cadmium; DNA; Deoxyribonucleic Acid; e2: Estradiol; Gaba: Gamma Amino Butyric Acide; Gh: Growth Hormone; Gnrh: Gonadotropin-Releasing-Hormone; Gth: Gonadotropin; Hiv-1: Human Immunideficiency Virus; Hsp70: Heat Shock Protein 70; Igf-i: Insulin-like Growth Factor; Lh: Luteinizing Hormone; Mhc: Major Histocompatibility Complex; Mirnas: Micro RNAs; Nh3: Ammonia; Nps: Nano Particles; Ni: Nickel; P53: Protein P53; Pd: Parkinsons Disease; Pkc: Protein Kinase C; Prl: Prolactin; T3: Triiodo-L-Thyronine; T4: L-Thyroxine

Introduction

The conceptual change of zoology as a science

The term zoology in this study means the branch of biology that studies the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals and their interaction with the biotic and abiotic environment.

Zoology as a science and “classical” field of biology has a long history of more than 2000 years. The history of zoology traces the study of the animal kingdom from ancient to modern times. Zoological sciences emerged from natural history reaching back to the works of Aristotle and Galen in the ancient Greco-Roman world. The concept of zoology as a single coherent field arose much later over the 18th and 19th century [1,2] and is one of the natural sciences attracting most public attention [3]. In contrast to this, zoology as a scientific field occasionally is considered to be old-fashioned [4]. Reason for this was emerging of more specialized zoology related sub-disciplines as a result of focusing on selected aspects of animal biology. As a consequence, zoology as a science was more and more replaced by a number of autonomous research areas, focusing different levels of the “system life”: molecules, cells, tissues, regulation and adaptation, model animals or whole ecosystems. Someone may ask for a strategy for how to keep these fragmented topics together. A look into the history of sciences reveals the answer.

It was in the 1940’s when the idea came up to counteract these dynamics by defining systems principles that keep science togethersystems theory was born. This minorize was proposed by the biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, and furthered by Ross Ashby [5,6]. Although those ideas and concepts were quite technical and catalyzed the loss of the term “organism” by more and more replacing it by “system” [7]. Nevertheless, the basic ideas were attempts to revive the unity of science and reacting against reductionism. Von Bertalanffy emphasized that real systems are open to, and interact with, their environments. Furthermore, they can gain qualitatively new emergent features, resulting in continual evolution.

In the time system theory came up another topic led to disruptive changes. Molecular biology was established in the 1930’s [8] and was always an interdisciplinary field (chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics). Advances in the modern molecular biological methodology rapidly enabled researchers in “classical” fields of biology, like zoology and botany, to develop the hypothesis for their observations that have the power to explain phenomena and emergent systems properties on different levels of organization. But can we explain life on a whole organism level with molecular biology alone? Astbury described molecular biology as: “...not so much a technique as an approach, an approach from the viewpoint of the so-called basic sciences with the leading idea of searching below the large-scale manifestations of classical biology for the corresponding molecular plan. It is concerned particularly with the forms of biological molecules and [...] is predominantly three-dimensional and structural-which does not mean, however, that it is merely a refinement of morphology. It must at the same time inquire into genesis and function.” [9]. Without doubts, molecular methods added a high value to many aspects of classical fields of biology. Today, researchers are always asked to explain the underlying mechanisms and in most cases, they end up in molecular biological experiments.

But, researchers, especially those with their roots in classic zoology, should always keep in mind the question “What does this mean to the whole animal?”. There is still a need for researchers with a holistic view of the results of modern life sciences. Jörg Albrecht, a German science journalist, and biologist asked the question if there is a future for classical zoology and botany. In his article, he came to the answer “Specialists like to divide the flora and fauna into ever smaller portions, here a cell, there a carbon compound, here an atom, there a neutrino, to the end everything consists of quarks. The secret of life cannot be deciphered on that level, because an animal, a plant, a bacterium, even a virus is always very much more than the sum of its parts. This is why: generalists, desperately sought” [10]. Is it true that zoology is outcompeted by other disciplines? And is it true that analysis on the whole organism level is losing importance?

Re-evolution of the concept of zoology

In the last decade, a process started to evolve the former “old fashioned” zoology into a modern zoology, which serves as an integrative discipline encompassing all aspects of animal life, from the level of the gene to the level of the ecosystem.

The current challenge of the modern zoology is the re-integration of zoological disciplines and simultaneously taking advantage of a broader approach to the holistic study of animal life. This is reflected by the increasing number of new zoology journals, like Zoo Keys, Frontiers in Zoology, International Journal of Zoology, Archives of Zoological Studies and Research Journal of Zoology (the journal, you are reading right now). How did the semantic content of zoology publications change when focusing on the question if molecular biology still displaces the concept of the organism?

In the following, some superficial analysis of the major zoological research topics using the bibliographic information in the database PubMed with the search term “zoology” in title and abstract fields is presented. From 67.475 hits 5404 were excluded (incomplete database entries, like missing titles) and the remaining 62.071 were imported in RefViz 2 (Thompson Reuters, New York). RefViz is data mining software for reference databases like PubMed. It provides a similarity-based clustering by statistical analysis of the vocabulary in the Titles and Abstracts of the reference set and how the terms in that vocabulary were categorized during processing. Major Topics are the terms that best distinguish sets of references - they are the most important concepts. Minor topics are less distinguishing, but have some influence on the grouping of references through their co-occurrence with the major topics. Words that are too frequent or too infrequent to help define groups of references, or they are not distributed in a manner that would help distinguish groups are excluded. PubMed® uses the MeSH index to find references with related concepts; thus, the query “zoology” itself may not necessarily appear in the reference itself.

For the current study, three subsets of publication year periods 1918-1999, 2000-2011 and 2012-2017 were analyzed for their most dominant (distinguishing) and minor (less distinguishing) topics. The results are shown in Table 1 (sorted by number of term occurrence) and Table 2 (alphabetically sorted). Table 3 shows the number of terms indicating the whole organismic level compared to the molecular level. The whole organismic level terms show an increase by 41% in contrast to terms indicating the molecular level, which decreased by more than 50 % both when comparing publications of the past 5 years to the period of 1918-1999. Although these numbers only represent a superficial analysis, they show the trend that the whole organism level in zoology publications can expect a renaissance. A reason for this may be the fact, that the number of animal models increases (bat, snail, ant, turtle, hamster, earthworm) as well as the number of important animals transferring human diseases (e.g. mosquito) or being of agri-and aquaculture interests (bee, honeybee, salmon/ fish, locust, deer, goat, buffalo) are increasing. The Kroghs Principle (in modern language) “Among the diversity of animal species there will be one ideally suited as an experimental model for any biological problem” [11,12] is still and even more true in the modern world of science.

1918 - 1999       2000 - 2011       2012 - 2017      
Major Topic # of papers Minor Topic # of papers Major Topic # of papers Minor Topic # of papers Major Topic # of papers Minor Topic # of papers
neuron 1065 cell 2947 sperm 509 species 2424 rat 1243 species 3489
fiber 667 activity 1973 oocyte 498 cell 2163 mosquito 613 activity 2219
ca2+ 606 species 1751 ca2+ 275 activity 1834 malaria 498 cell 2152
oocyte 451 protein 1546 zinc 250 protein 1683 Aedes 384 gene 1873
aegyptii
                     
sperm 445 concentration 1442 bat 220 male 1295 sperm 371 protein 1687
virus 329 body 1251 ant 205 gene 1287 oocyte 309 population 1674
wing 266 rate 1248 tick 202 rate 1258 bat 268 expression 1574
prolactin 216 male 1237 spider 195 concentration 1256 snail 246 male 1442
flight 207 female 1218 melatonin 184 expression 1246 tick 245 concentration 1314
seed 203 population 1076 bat 162 population 1157 ant 235 female 1291
tick 199 blood 987 mite 155 female 1153 bee 234 evolution 1109
microtubule 191 hormone 920 pheromone 145 evolution 918 diabetic 200 genetic 1079
goldfish 177 rat 919 locust 144 sequence 881 dog 192 exposure 1050
lh 169 tissue 902 song 140 exposure 866 part per 182 infection 1044
million
                     
corticosterone 167 site 883 hypoxia 139 behavior 840 hypoxia 165 signal 935
gnrh 160 receptor 864 shrimp 137 receptor 826 venom 141 host 929
bat 155 gene 842 spindle 135 fish 811 pheromone 136 mouse 915
t3 153 growth 839 vitamin 127 mouse 795 song 135 behavior 895
snake 151 release 835 dog 124 signal 784 placenta 134 size 866
insulin 145 behavior 821 tadpole 123 size 756 aphid 132 blood 813
melatonin 138 size 811 earthworm 122 growth 731 influenza 131 extract 786
gaba 131 muscle 811 venom 120 reproductive 707 ca2+ 129 dose 760
turtle 129 expression 776 cortisol 120 water 696 nps 125 water 733
deer 127 membrane 764 vole 118 rat 695 melatonin 123 risk 728
hair 125 model 756 aphid 111 genetic 675 wound 120 receptor 726
vole 123 mouse 714 fin 110 host 596 honeybee 115 growth 723
t4 122 plasma 689 seal 109 hormone 596 earthworm 112 vector 721
odor 121 brain 673 mussel 104 feed 595 feather 109 plant 715
interneuron 119 fish 671 e2 95 dose 563 ni 108 dna 711
cortisol 119 production 669 aromatase 94 dna 538 honey 104 insect 709
cadmium 119 sequence 665 deer 93 temperature 536 turtle 101 reproductive 707
pineal 115 human 650 diabetic 81 mass 529 mirnas 101 genus 694
Flower 110 culture 623 gh 77 insect 522 deer 95 parasite 688
ant 110 bind 601 pineal 76 muscle 502 sponge 93 feed 674
spider 108 feed 594 mhc 76 blood 497 shrew 93 liver 658
gh 107 reproductive 580 imprint 74 release 494 locust 92 toxicity 624
squirrel 100 cycle 580 torpor 74 egg 491 shark 90 anti-oxidant 621
mite 99 temperature 561 nh3 74 intection 486 mussel 88 age 608
gth 96 insect 540 mercury 74 liver 480 horse 88 fish 606
bee 96 evolution 530 horse 74 plasma 474 pd 84 serum 593
e2 94 dose 530 goldtish 74 food 466 mhc 83 oxidative 585
stress
                     
venom 90 phase 524 gnrh 74 brain 466 autophagy 82 compound 581
song 88 enzyme 519 arsenic 72 phase 461 agnps 82 brain 577
motoneuron 87 antibody 519 squirrel 71 culture 454 schizophrenia 81 larva 562
Iectin 84 nucleus 514 shark 71 age 454 ag 81 selection 514
ethanol 84 signal 510 jump 69 sex 453 biofilm 80 mitochondrial 513
pkc 83 acid 510 sleep 68 bird 452 pollen 79 food 511
fish 81 light 504 ar 68 plant 437 curcumin 79 drug 504
shrimp 78 egg 501 silk 67 selection 436 jump 78 temperature 502
cd 76 nerve 492 leptin 67 mrna 427 hiv-1 78 habitat 499
seal 75 embryo 484 hiv-1 67 bind 416 arsenic 77 pathogen 498
mhc 74 secretion 481 queen 65 extract 409 sensillum 76 wild 492
caffeine 72 drosophila 465 maize 64 embryo 409 vole 74 virus 483
imprint 69 larva 449 cotton 64 larva 407 gastric 71 resistance 478
duck 68 medium 448 methylation 63 degrees c 403 salmon 70 bird 469
pollen 65 genetic 447 p53 62 disease 402 goat 70 acid 465
aromatase 65 host 443 crayfish 62 gland 395 rice 69 strain 461
5-ht 65 dna 443 notochord 60 nucleus 389 whale 68 prevalence 457
mercury 64 density 439 lens 59 density 389 scorpion 68 density 453
wheel 62 bird 439 hsp70 59 metabolic 387 lion 66 trait 452
sensillum 61 water 437 eel 58 stress 384 hamster 67 genome 452
interferon- 61 degrees c 435 igf-i 57 energy 373 buffalo 64 egg 450
gamma
                     
ache 61 sex 433 diapause 57 breed 373 silk 61 patient 447
histone 60 liver 431 pollen 56 sexual 368 nh3 61 stress 441

Table 1: Text analysis of the top 64 major zoological research topics using the bibliographic information in the database PubMed with the search term “zoology” in title and abstract. From 67.475 hits 5404 were excluded (incomplete database entries, like missing titles). The periods 1918-1999, 2000-2011 and 2012-2017 were analyzed for their most dominant (distinguishing) and minor (less distinguishing) topics in order of term occurrence. Terms in italics indicates topics on the molecular level. Terms in bold indicates topics on the whole organism level. n=16222 (1918 - 1999), 22222 (2000 - 2011) and 23627 (2012 - 2017) respectively.

1918 - 1999       2000 - 2011       2012 - 2017      
Major Topic # of papers Minor Topic # of papers Major Topic # of papers Minor Topic # of papers Major Topic # of papers Minor Topic # of papers
5-ht 65 acid 510 ant 205 activity 1834 Aedes 384 acid 465
aegyptii
                     
ache 61 activity 1973 aphid 111 age 454 ag 81 activity 2219
ant 110 antibody 519 ar 68 behavior 840 agnps 82 age 608
aromatase 65 behavior 821 aromatase 94 bind 416 ant 235 anti-oxidant 621
bat 155 bind 601 arsenic 72 bird 452 aphid 132 behavior 895
bee 96 bird 439 bat 220 blood 497 arsenic 77 bird 469
ca2+ 606 blood 987 bat 162 brain 466 autophagy 82 blood 813
cadmium 119 body 1251 ca2+ 275 breed 373 bat 268 brain 577
caffeine 72 brain 673 cortisol 120 cell 2163 bee 234 cell 2152
cd 76 cell 2947 cotton 64 concentration 1256 biofilm 80 compound 581
corticosterone 167 concentration 1442 crayfish 62 culture 454 buffalo 64 concentration 1314
cortisol 119 culture 623 deer 93 degrees c 403 ca2+ 129 density 453
deer 127 cycle 580 diabetic 81 density 389 curcumin 79 dna 711
duck 68 degrees c 435 diapause 57 disease 402 deer 95 dose 760
e2 94 density 439 dog 124 dna 538 diabetic 200 drug 504
ethanol 84 dna 443 e2 95 dose 563 dog 192 egg 450
fiber 667 dose 530 earthworm 122 egg 491 earthworm 112 evolution 1109
fish 81 drosophila 465 eel 58 embryo 409 feather 109 exposure 1050
flight 207 egg 501 fin 110 energy 373 gastric 71 expression 1574
Flower 110 embryo 484 gh 77 evolution 918 goat 70 extract 786
gaba 131 enzyme 519 gnrh 74 exposure 866 hamster 67 feed 674
gh 107 evolution 530 goldtish 74 expression 1246 hiv-1 78 female 1291
gnrh 160 expression 776 hiv-1 67 extract 409 honey 104 fish 606
goldfish 177 feed 594 horse 74 feed 595 honeybee 115 food 511
gth 96 female 1218 hsp70 59 female 1153 horse 88 gene 1873
hair 125 fish 671 hypoxia 139 fish 811 hypoxia 165 genetic 1079
histone 60 gene 842 igf-i 57 food 466 influenza 131 genome 452
Iectin 84 genetic 447 imprint 74 gene 1287 jump 78 genus 694
imprint 69 growth 839 jump 69 genetic 675 lion 66 growth 723
insulin 145 hormone 920 lens 59 gland 395 locust 92 habitat 499
interferon- 61 host 443 leptin 67 growth 731 malaria 498 host 929
gamma
                     
interneuron 119 human 650 locust 144 hormone 596 melatonin 123 infection 1044
lh 169 insect 540 maize 64 host 596 mhc 83 insect 709
melatonin 138 larva 449 melatonin 184 insect 522 mirnas 101 larva 562
mercury 64 light 504 mercury 74 intection 486 mosquito 613 liver 658
mhc 74 liver 431 methylation 63 larva 407 mussel 88 male 1442
microtubule 191 male 1237 mhc 76 liver 480 nh3 61 mitochondrial 513
mite 99 medium 448 mite 155 male 1295 ni 108 mouse 915
motoneuron 87 membrane 764 mussel 104 mass 529 nps 125 oxidative 585
stress
                     
neuron 1065 model 756 nh3 74 metabolic 387 oocyte 309 parasite 688
odor 121 mouse 714 notochord 60 mouse 795 part per 182 pathogen 498
million
                     
oocyte 451 muscle 811 oocyte 498 mrna 427 pd 84 patient 447
pineal 115 nerve 492 p53 62 muscle 502 pheromone 136 plant 715
pkc 83 nucleus 514 pheromone 145 nucleus 389 placenta 134 population 1674
pollen 65 phase 524 pineal 76 phase 461 pollen 79 prevalence 457
prolactin 216 plasma 689 pollen 56 plant 437 rat 1243 protein 1687
seal 75 population 1076 queen 65 plasma 474 rice 69 receptor 726
seed 203 production 669 seal 109 population 1157 salmon 70 reproductive 707
sensillum 61 protein 1546 shark 71 protein 1683 schizophrenia 81 resistance 478
shrimp 78 rat 919 shrimp 137 rat 695 scorpion 68 risk 728
snake 151 rate 1248 silk 67 rate 1258 sensillum 76 selection 514
song 88 receptor 864 sleep 68 receptor 826 shark 90 serum 593
sperm 445 release 835 song 140 release 494 shrew 93 signal 935
spider 108 reproductive 580 sperm 509 reproductive 707 silk 61 size 866
squirrel 100 secretion 481 spider 195 selection 436 snail 246 species 3489
t3 153 sequence 665 spindle 135 sequence 881 song 135 strain 461
t4 122 sex 433 squirrel 71 sex 453 sperm 371 stress 441
tick 199 signal 510 tadpole 123 sexual 368 sponge 93 temperature 502
turtle 129 site 883 tick 202 signal 784 tick 245 toxicity 624
venom 90 size 811 torpor 74 size 756 turtle 101 trait 452
virus 329 species 1751 venom 120 species 2424 venom 141 vector 721
vole 123 temperature 561 vitamin 127 stress 384 vole 74 virus 483
wheel 62 tissue 902 vole 118 temperature 536 whale 68 water 733
wing 266 water 437 zinc 250 water 696 wound 120 wild 492

Table 2: Text analysis of the top 64 major zoological research topics using the bibliographic information in the database PubMed with the search term “zoology” in title and abstract. From 67.475 hits 5404 were excluded (incomplete database entries, like missing titles). The periods 1918 – 1999, 2000 – 2011 and 2012 – 2017 were analyzed for their most dominant (distinguishing) and minor (less distinguishing) topics in alphabetical order of terms. Terms in italics indicates topics on the molecular level. Terms in bold indicates topics on the whole organism level. n=16222 (1918 - 1999), 22222 (2000 - 2011) and 23627 (2012 - 2017) respectively.

# of terms 1918-1999 2000-2011 2012-2017
Whole Organism level 24 28 34
Molecular level 40 29 18

Table 3: Text analysis of the top 64 major zoological research topics using the bibliographic information in the database PubMed with the search term “zoology” in title and abstract. From 67.475 hits 5404 were excluded (incomplete database entries, like missing titles). The periods 1918-1999, 2000-2011 and 2012-2017 were analyzed for terms indicating molecular or organism level. n=64.

Conclusion

Zoology as a science has a future. Modern zoology has an important integrative role with a focus on the organism level and a holistic understanding of structures and functions. Besides the molecular level model animals have to be characterized on the whole organism level as well and the question that always has to be kept in mind is “What does it mean to the (whole) animal?”

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