Anatomy is the science of the structures that are present in living organisms and the functions that those structures perform. Anatomy has a role both in biology and medicine. There are a variety of different forms of anatomy including superficial anatomy, comparative anatomy, anthropological anatomy, and artistic anatomy, for example. Anatomy can be used to describe the typical structures found in a particular species, or it can be used to make comparisons across individuals of the same species or across different species.
Superficial anatomy is also known as surface anatomy. This involves looking at landmarks on the surface of the body of the organism being studied. The point of this is to help identify the deeper structures that are associated with those surface landmarks. The study of anatomy can be looked at on the larger scale of the morphological features, but it can also be looked at on the microscopic level as well. These can be considered gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy, respectively. Microscopic anatomy is also known as histology.
There are several methods that can be used in anatomical studies. For gross anatomy, the observation of the body can be used as well as dissection of a dead organism, such as a human cadaver, for example. But there are also a variety of other techniques such as the observation of photos and illustrations in textbooks and the familiar class skeleton, for example. All of these techniques are aimed at providing an understanding of the anatomy on the larger scale. On the smaller scale, the sectioning of tissues can be performed and then the resulting thin slice observed through a microscope.
There is an important difference to be understood in the teaching of anatomy. This concerns the use of a regional or a systemic approach. The regional approach would look at a particular tissue or area in isolation, such as the head for example. A systemic approach would look at the functionally connected systems, even if they were distributed throughout the body, across regions, such as the nervous system or the circulatory system, for example.
An important type of anatomy is that of comparative anatomy. This is aimed at comparing the gross and microscopic features of different species and providing an account of the similarities and differences between them, such as the presence or absence of a particular organ, for example. In the case of human beings, a type of anatomy called anthropological anatomy looks at the similarities and differences of human races on the gross and microscopic levels. There is even a form of anatomy known as artistic anatomy, which is aimed at providing artists with an awareness of significant anatomical points.