Biosemiotics (from the Greek βίος bios, "life" and σημειωτικός sēmeiōtikos, "observant of signs") is a field of semiotics and biology that studies the prelinguistic meaning-making, or production and interpretation of signs and codes and their communication in the biological realm.
Biosemiotics integrates the findings of biology and semiotics and proposes a paradigmatic shift in the scientific view of life, in which semiosis (sign process, including meaning and interpretation) is one of its immanent and intrinsic features. The term biosemiotic was first used by Friedrich S. Rothschild in 1962, but Thomas Sebeok and Thure von Uexküll have implemented the term and field. The field, which challenges normative views of biology, is generally divided between theoretical and applied biosemiotics.
Biosemiotics is biology interpreted as a sign systems study, or, to elaborate, a study of
According to the basic types of semiosis under study, biosemiotics can be divided into
According to the dominant aspect of semiosis under study, the following labels have been used: biopragmatics, biosemantics, and biosyntactics.
Apart from Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) and Charles W. Morris (1903–1979), early pioneers of biosemiotics were Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944), Heini Hediger (1908–1992), Giorgio Prodi (1928–1987), Marcel Florkin (1900–1979) and Friedrich S. Rothschild (1899–1995); the founding fathers of the contemporary interdiscipline were Thomas Sebeok (1920–2001) and Thure von Uexküll (1908–2004).
In the 1980s a circle of mathematicians active in Theoretical Biology, René Thom (Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques), Yannick Kergosien (Dalhousie University and Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques), and Robert Rosen (Dalhousie University, also a former member of the Buffalo group with Howard H. Pattee), explored the relations between Semiotics and Biology using such headings as "Nature Semiotics", "Semiophysics", or "Anticipatory Systems"  and taking a modeling approach.
The contemporary period (as initiated by Copenhagen-Tartu school) include biologists Jesper Hoffmeyer, Kalevi Kull, Claus Emmeche, Terrence Deacon, semioticians Martin Krampen, Paul Cobley, philosophers Donald Favareau, John Deely, John Collier and complex systems scientists Howard H. Pattee, Michael Conrad, Luis M. Rocha, Cliff Joslyn and León Croizat.
In 2001, an annual international conference for biosemiotic research known as the Gatherings in Biosemiotics was inaugurated, and has taken place every year since.
In 2004, a group of biosemioticians – Marcello Barbieri, Claus Emmeche, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Kalevi Kull, and Anton Markos – decided to establish an international journal of biosemiotics. Under their editorship, the Journal of Biosemiotics was launched by Nova Science Publishers in 2005 (two issues published), and with the same five editors Biosemiotics was launched by Springer in 2008. The book series Biosemiotics (Springer), edited by Claus Emmeche, Donald Favareau, Kalevi Kull, and Alexei Sharov, began in 2007 and since published 23 volumes.
The International Society for Biosemiotic Studies was established in 2005 by Donald Favareau and the five editors listed above. A collective programmatic paper on the basic theses of biosemiotics appeared in 2009. and in 2010, an 800 page textbook and anthology, Essential Readings in Biosemiotics, was published, with bibliographies and commentary by Donald Favareau.
Since the work of Jakob von Uexküll and Martin Heidegger, several scholars in the humanities have engaged with or appropriated ideas from biosemiotics in their own projects; conversely, biosemioticians have critically engaged with or reformulated humanistic theories using ideas from biosemiotics and complexity theory. For instance, Andreas Weber has reformulated some of Hans Jonas's ideas using concepts from biosemiotics, and biosemiotics have been used to interpret the poetry of John Burnside.
In 2021, the American philosopher Jason Josephson Storm has drawn on biosemiotics and empirical research on animal communication to propose hylosemiotics, a theory of ontology and communication that Storm believes could allow the humanities to move beyond the linguistic turn.
John Deely's work also represents an engagement between humanistic and biosemiotic approaches. Deely was trained as a historian and not a biologist but discussed biosemiotics and zoosemiotics extensively in his introductory works on semiotics and clarified terms that are relevant for biosemiotics. Although his idea of physiosemiotics was criticized by practicing biosemioticians, Paul Cobley, Donald Favareau, and Kalevi Kull wrote that "the debates on this conceptual point between Deely and the biosemiotics community were always civil and marked by a mutual admiration for the contributions of the other towards the advancement of our understanding of sign relations."
'Biosemiotics.' This discipline focuses on the manifold possible connections between biology and semiotics, such as studying biological processes from a semiotic perspective and communication from a biological perspective, or searching for a way to theorize biological phenomena (Laubichler 'Introduction').