Which topic does a herpetologist study?

And the answer: reptiles and amphibians.  

Photo credit: Carl Linneaus via Wikimedia Commons. 

The word "herpetology" comes from the Greek word meaning "to creep." As a branch of zoology, herpetology is the study of reptiles, such as snakes and lizards, as well as amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders. A herpetologist studies the animals' behaviors, geographic ranges, genetics, and more.

Upon spotting a venomous snake in the wild, most rational people would turn (and run) the other direction. Yet for a herpetologist, such a sighting represents a unique opportunity. Whether alive or dead, reptiles in the wild open the possibility of examining the creatures' biology, ethology, ecology, evolution, and even medical importance.    

Herpetologists' primary area of work is in the field, so these specialists spend their time doing research in one of a number of different areas. This could include studies related to behavior, genetics, anatomy, physiology, ecology, health, or reproduction. A herpetologist's work is often concerned with issues of conservation, and they'll often seek to provide sanctuaries for more critically endangered reptiles. Since many reptiles and amphibians are considered "indicator species," the scientist's research may be used to evaluate overall changes in the environment. As such, herpetologists may plan and manage disease control and conservation programs.

Interestingly, some reptiles play an integral role in communities' disease transmission. Areas of the world with falling snake populations can experience spikes in diseases such as typhoid and cholera, which are largely insect-driven diseases. Further, treatments for diseases such as diabetes and cancer have found sources for drug development in some snakes' venom.

Learn more about the field of herpetology below.

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