Science History

History of Ichthyology

Giant grouper along with schools of other fish

Our world is full of diverse animal species. These species range from land animals to flying animals, as well as those that live underwater. Because of the vast number of animal species, scientists went on a more specific scope of studies, which focuses on learning more in-depth knowledge about various animals. A perfect example of this animal species is the fish.

Fish alone has roughly 32,000 species all around the globe. This number continues to grow since experts have not yet identified all fishes living in our vast oceans. That is why some scientists devote their work in unraveling the mysteries of the deep oceans and learning most of its living organisms.

Interestingly, the apparent extensive number of fish species made a significant impact on the scientific world. This continuously growing list of identified fish species led to the more profound study of marine life. This study is called ichthyology, and it is practiced by several scientists all around the globe in hopes of identifying more fish species dwelling beneath the ocean floors.

In this article, we are going to look into another branch of biology called ichthyology. Furthermore, what is its history, and how does it affect our modern world?

What is Ichthyology?

Similar to entomology, ichthyology is a branch of zoology devoting to the fish. Based on studies, fishes are divided into three categories, including bony fish, cartilaginous fish, and jawless fish. Due to the exceptional population of fish, as well as its constantly increasing number, it is essential to devote a scope of study directed primarily to them.

According to recent data from the largest global database of fish species called Fishbase, there are already roughly 33,000 identified species of fish. Furthermore, about 250 new species are bound to be discovered each year, according to studies.

What is the origin of Ichthyology?

Guillaume Rondelet

Now that we already know a brief knowledge about ichthyology let us now look into its history.We can trace back the earliest account of the origins of ichthyology to the Upper Paleolithic Revolution, which dates back to roughly 50,000 to 12,000 years ago. The development of this branch of science started from different interconnecting epochs, and each of these having its distinct stage of development throughout history. Based on recent studies, the earliest ichthyologists were not actually scientists but rather hunters and gatherers who studied, observed and experimented with fish life to gain essential knowledge used for survival.

The first formal scientific study of ichthyology is dated back to the 3rd century BC through the works of the Greek natural philosopher – Aristotle. Most of us probably know Aristotle as one of the great philosophers who contributed to the development of science during ancient times. His works dwell on various subjects, such as physics, logic, and biology. His study of biology included zoology, as well as ichthyology, wherein he created the earliest form of taxonomic classification of fish that accurately defined 117 species of fish in the Mediterranean Sea. He adequately described a clear distinction between fish and marine mammals.

The works of Aristotle influenced many other philosophers and scientists all around the globe, and most of these people are his students. Among these ancient philosophers are the great naturalists Theophrastus and ‘Pliny the Elder,’ who both heavily contributed to scientific advances. Theophrastus is one of Aristotle’s greatest student, and his successor, who is often considered as the father of biology. He worked on a treatise devoted to identifying amphibious fish.

Fast forward to the 16th century when the advancement of ichthyology took a giant leap through the works of various scholars, such as HippolitoSalviani, Pierre Belon, and Guillaume Rondelet. Their works represented the foundations of modern ichthyology and sparked a more thorough study of the subject. Because of their successful works, they gained recognition, which influenced other scientists.

Moreover, the study of fish continued to advance during the 18th century, especially when the Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus made his contributions to the identification of fish species. Linnaeus is often considered as the ‘father of modern taxonomy,’ due to his several works regarding the classifications of various animals, and among the animals, he identified are fishes. His work was a breakthrough not just in ichthyology, but also in other branches of biology, such as zoology and botany. The taxonomy method developed by Linnaeus became a standard for the study of organisms.

Over the years, the study of fish remained a part of the scientific interest around the globe. Several scientists conduct various research with regards to the importance of ichthyology, as well as the diversity of fish species.

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