The 10 Branches of Biology: Their Goals and Characteristics

The science that deals with living things is constantly evolving and specializing.

Like any self-respecting science, biology spreads its efforts across various disciplines to cover as much knowledge as possible. This is necessary because there is more and more information.

The various branches of biology make it possible to narrow down and focus knowledge in order to investigate and push forward the discovery of new information that reveals the secrets hidden in living things.

The branches of biology (and the subject of study in each)

Biology is divided into a variety of disciplines created to better serve different objects and goals of study, and new ones continue to be added as knowledge advances. Moreover, some of them are related to and partially overlap with other major sciences, such as chemistry or geology, with which they complement each other.

Even taking into account that the boundaries between these fields of research are to some extent blurred, several branches of biology can be distinguished, of which we will mention the most important ones here.

1. Cell Biology

The cell is the original unit of living things, since all living things are made of cells. It is therefore not surprising that one of the branches of biology deals with the study of cells. Formerly called cytology, the field specializes, as the name implies, in knowledge of the structures and functions of cells. This includes not only the processes by which they are kept alive, but also how they contribute to the functioning of the organism in which they reside when they are part of multicellular life forms.

2. Developmental Biology

One of the most impressive phenomena of life is how the union of two gametes can give rise to an entire multicellular organism. I am referring to fertilization by a sperm and an egg (in the case of animals) to form a zygote. This branch of biology is concerned with the study of all cellular processes involved in the development of a new organism through sexual reproduction.

3. Marine Biology

Earth is also known as the blue planet, and indeed nearly 71% of its surface is covered by water. Life in the oceans is no small matter, as evidenced by the fact that there is an entire branch of biology devoted to the study of the sea, from the creatures that inhabit it to their interaction with the environment. The aquatic environment is probably the origin of all life forms, and therefore there is a great diversity of living beings, some of which are completely different from those on land.

4. Molecular biology

While I talked earlier about cell biology, which specializes in the study of the structures and functions of cells, molecular biology focuses on the tools that cells use to carry out these functions. This field studies proteins and the processes they carry out, such as the synthesis of these components or processes related to metabolism. It is a hybrid between biology and chemistry.

5. Botany

Living organisms are the most important object of study in biology, but there is a huge variety of living organisms, so it is necessary to diversify.

Botany is mainly concerned with the study of plants, such as:

  • vegetation
  • shrubs
  • and trees

but also with life forms that are not plants but share characteristics with them, such as:

  • algae
  • fungi
  • and cyanobacteria

What they all have in common is limited mobility and the ability to photosynthesize (except for fungi).

6. Ecology

The environment is a very important element of life and an increasingly relevant topic. Ecology is the branch of biology that deals with the close interactions between living things and their environment or habitat, which form so-called ecosystems.

7. Physiology

While cell biology deals with the functions of cells, physiology is the field that deals with the processes that take place in organs, i.e., the functions performed by a collection of cells. For example, the circulation of internal fluids or the mechanisms of respiration. Physiology applies to both animals and plants.

8. Genetics

The cell is the unit of life, but without DNA it would be nothing. The genetic material contains all the information necessary for the development of an organism. DNA allows cells to form proteins.

For this reason, there is a whole discipline devoted to the study of genetic content, namely genetics. The study of the genome has always been of special interest to biology, and today it is also important for the development of new technologies and technological tools such as gene editing, artificial selection, etc.

9. Microbiology

While botany deals mainly with plants, microbiology focuses on the study of microorganisms, very small single-celled living organisms that can only be seen under a microscope.

Organisms studied include:

  • bacteria
  • archaea (formerly called archaebacteria)
  • protozoa (single-celled eukaryotic organisms)
  • and the enigmatic viruses

10. Zoology

The last branch of biology to be discussed here is also one of the oldest in terms of prehistory: zoology, which deals with the study of animals. From sponges to mammals, a wide range of living things falls within its field of study. In addition, several of its subcategories deal with the study of their behavior and overlap to some extent with psychology and cognitive science.


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