With around 27,000 known living species, fish are the most diverse group of vertebrates , with more than half of the total species of them. While most species have probably been discovered and described , approximately 250 new species are officially described by science each year. The ichthyology , better known as the scientific study of fish is considered a kind of science that is responsible for a large group of organisms, a number of subdisciplines specialized: for example, taxonomy ,anatomy or morphology , behavioral science , ecology and physiology . The discipline may include fish biology , taxonomy, and conservation , as well as farmed and commercial fisheries.

What is ichthyology?

Ichthyology is a discipline in the area of zoology that is responsible for the study of fish, it also provides important data on the species that already exist and on the new ones that are emerging over time.

  • Definition
  • What does ichthyology study
  • History
  • What is ichthyology for?
  • Branches
  • Importance
  • Featured ichthyologists
  • Ichthyology books
  • Examples


Ichthyology, a word that derives from the Greek ixthu , and that combines the form of ixthus, has the meaning ” fish ” and is the branch of zoology that is dedicated to the study of fish . This includes bony fish, cartilaginous fish such as the Chondrichthyes class which includes around 800 species including sharks and rays, and the jawless fish belonging to the Agatha class or superclass , which has around 75 species which include the lamprey and hagfish.

What does ichthyology study

Ichthyology is a branch of zoology that is responsible for studying the morphology and physiology possessing the fish . The practice of ichthyology is closely associated with biology marina, the limnology which is a science devoted to the study of inland aquatic ecosystems and oceanography or science of rivers, lakes, seas, oceans and any area of the aquatic world.


Ichthyology originated in the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic period and continues to this day. This science was developed in several times they were interconnected , each with several significant advances. The study of fish probably has its origin in the human desire to feed , dress and equip . The first ichthyologists were probably hunters and gatherers who investigated what were edible fish, where they could be found, and how best to catch them. The Chinese tried to learn about fish to practice aquacultureand there is evidence of Egyptian aquaculture , centered on tilapia, dating back to 2000 BC Moses.

The oldest known document on fish farming was written by a Chinese politician, Fan-Li.  Aristotle incorporated ichthyology into formal scientific study and provided the first taxonomic classification of fish, in which 117 species of Mediterranean fish were accurately described. The Romans wrote about fish. Pliny the Elder , a noted Roman naturalist, collected the ichthyological works of the indigenous Greeks.

The writings of three scholars during the 16th century, Hippolyte Salviani , Pierre Belon, and Guillaume Rondelet , represent the conception of modern ichthyology . The investigations of these scientists were based on real investigations compared to ancient texts . The increases in shipping and shipbuilding throughout the Renaissance ushered in a new era in ichthyology. The Renaissance culminated in the era of exploration and colonization , and on the cosmopolitan interest in navigation came specialization in naturalism. 

What is ichthyology for?

Ichthyology is a science that helps us to carry out studies on the different types of fish that exist, with respect to their behavior, their way of reproducing and living in the aquatic environment . It is also in charge of studying morphology and physiology . It also helps to know the most recommended methods for the reproduction of species that are used mainly for human consumption.


Ichthyology is a branch of the field of zoology that is responsible, as we have already mentioned, with the study of fish. These can be divided into two large groups:

  • Osteichthians : are the fish that have a bone skeleton
  • Chondrichthyans : which are cartilaginous fish, include sharks, rays, and agnates.


Thanks to ichthyology, it is possible to carry out a series of species to discover new groups of fish, to adequately conserve the different hydrobiological communities and the aquatic systems of many areas, mainly protected areas .

Featured ichthyologists

  • Alexander Emanuel Agassiz
  • Peter artedi
  • William O. Ayres – California
  • Spencer Fullerton Baird
  • Tarleton bean
  • Pieter von Bleeker – East Indies
  • E. Bloch
  • George Boulenger
  • Drinker cope
  • Georges cuvier
  • Francis Day – India
  • Bashford Dean
  • Carl H. Eigenmann
  • Samuel Garman
  • Charles Henry Gilbert
  • Theodore Nicholas Gill

Ichthyology books

Some books on ichthyology that have good information on the subject are the following:

  • Aquaculture Sweet Fish Red Book
  • Nature Guides, Aquarium Fish
  • Mediterranean and Atlantic Fish Guides
  • Sea, North Atlantic and Mediterranean Fish Guides


Some of the groups that are studied by ichthyology are the following:

  • Osteitians (bony fish)
  • Chondrichthyans (cartilaginous fish, such as shark and ray)
  • Agnatos ( jawless fish).

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