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This introduction to the volume argues for the central and integrating role of the subject matter of ethnobiological research in anthropology understood in its widest sense: in its biological, archaeo-historical, and socio-cultural dimensions. The background and current status of ethnobiology are assessed, and its contribution to anthropological issues considered under the following headings: the foundational paradigm of taxonomic orthodoxy; language and the translation of knowledge systems; cognition and culture; the social organization and transmission of knowledge; medical ethnobiology; the applied practice of ethnobiology; and – the meta-theory which binds all this together – the co-evolutionary paradigm as part of a wider ‘biocultural synthesis’. The way in which the collected papers exemplify these themes is discussed.