Evolutionary biology is a subfield of biology concerned with the origin and descent of species, as well as their change over time, i.e. their evolution. One who studies evolutionary biology is known as an evolutionary biologist, or less frequently evolutionist.
Evolutionary biology is something of a meta field because it includes scientists from many traditional taxonomically-oriented disciplines. For example, it generally includes scientists who may have a specialist training in particular organisms such as mammalogy, ornithology, or herpetology but use those organisms as systems to answer general questions in evolution. It also generally includes paleontogists who use fossils to answer questions about the mode and tempo of evolution, as well as theoreticians in areas such as population genetics and evolutionary theory. In the 1990s developmental biology made a re-entry into evolutionary biology from its initial exclusion from the modern synthesis through the study of evolutionary developmental biology.
Main article: History of evolutionary thought
Evolutionary biology as an academic discipline in its own right emerged as a result of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s. It was not until the 1970s and 1980s, however, that a significant number of universities had departments that specifically included the term evolutionary biology in their titles. In the United States, as a result of the rapid growth of molecular and cell biology, many universities have split (or aggregated) their biology departments into molecular and cell biology-style departments and ecology and evolutionary biology-style departments (which often have subsumed older departments in paleontology, zoology and the like).
Microbiology has recently developed into an evolutionary discipline. It was originally ignored due to the paucity of morphological traits and the lack of a species concept in microbiology. Now, evolutionary researchers are taking advantage our extensive understanding of microbial physiology, the ease of microbial genomics, and the quick generation time of some microbes to answer evolutionary questions. Similar features have led to progress in viral evolution, particularly for bacteriophage.
Notable contributors to evolutionary biology include:
Notable popularizers of evolution whose research isn't primarily concerned with evolutionary biology include:
(only author, date of publication and title listed here, see the article for publication details)