Animal Info - Glossary

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z


Abiotic
Not living.
Adult
A fully developed and mature animal, physically capable of breeding, but not necessarily doing so until social and/or ecological conditions allow.
Aerobic
Deriving energy from a process requiring free oxygen (compare "Anaerobic").
Aestivate
To enter a state of dormancy in seasonal hot, dry weather, when food is scarce.
Agonistic
Referring to behavior between individuals of the same species that may involve aggression, threat, appeasement or avoidance. Agonistic behavior may arise from a conflict between aggression and fear.
Alga (plural "Algae")
A general name for the single-celled, predominantly aquatic, organisms that photosynthesize but lack the specialized reproductive structures of plants. Algae lack true roots, stems, and leaves.
Allee effect
A situation where the density of an animal population is so low as to cause adverse effects on the population. For example, adult animals may have trouble finding other adults to mate with because they are so scarce.
Allele
One of the forms of a given gene.
Alloparent
An animal behaving parentally towards infants or young that are not its own offspring.
Allopatric
Referring to a situation in which populations of different species are geographically separated (compare "Sympatric").
Alluvial
Referring to soil which has been deposited by running water. For example, alluvial floodplains are formed when a river overflows during a flood and deposits silt on its banks.
Alpha diversity
See diversity - alpha.
Alpine
Referring to conditions similar to those found in the Alps or other higher mountains (usually above 1500 m (4900')) .
Altricial
Refers to young mammals (e.g. rats, mice, cats, dogs, giant pandas) that are helpless at birth. Their eyes and ears are sealed, and they cannot walk, maintain their body temperature, or excrete without assistance. (Compare "precocial".) (Allaby 1991)
Amazon River habitat
Includes black water, white water, igapo forest and varzea forest.
Amphibious
Able to live both on land and in the water.
Anaerobic
Deriving energy from a process that does not require free oxygen (compare "Aerobic").
Antarctic Convergence
The region between 50 deg - 55 deg S where the Antarctic surface water sinks beneath the less dense and southward flowing subantarctic water.
Antelope
This is a general term without a strict definition, rather than a zoological term.  Antelopes have been variously classified as bovids with long slender limbs, an animal that chews its cud, or "all bovids other than cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats." 
Anther
The sac-like part of a stamen containing pollen.
Antilles, Greater
The Greater Antilles are the four largest islands in the northwestern portion of the Caribbean Sea and include Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. The Greater Antilles together with the Lesser Antilles comprise the West Indies.
Antilles, Lesser
The Lesser Antilles include the smaller islands of the Caribbean - the Virgin Islands, Windward Islands and Leeward Islands. The Lesser Antilles together with the Greater Antilles comprise the West Indies.
Aquatic
Referring to an animal that lives mainly in the water.
Arachnid
A species in a class of arthropods which includes mostly air-breathing invertebrates, including spiders, scorpions, mites and ticks, which have a body with two segments, with the front segment having four pairs of legs and no antennae.
Arboreal
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
Archipelago
A group of islands.
Arthropod
Referring to an insect, spider, crab or other member of a species with a hard, jointed exoskeleton and paired, jointed legs.
Artiodactyl
Referring to an even-toed ungulate (includes the cattle, pigs and ruminants).

Baleen
A horny substance, commonly known as whalebone, that grows as plates from the upper jaws of certain whales, and forms a fringelike filter for extracting plankton such as krill and small fish from seawater.
Baleen Whale
Any of several whales of the suborder Mysticeti, such as the right whale and rorquals, having a symmetrical skull, two blowholes, and baleen plates instead of teeth. Also known as a "mysticete."
Bamboo
Bamboo species are giant grasses that have evolved woody stems and tough, leathery leaves to deter predation.  Because they are so high in indigestible fiber and are loaded with abrasive compounds containing silica, bamboo's are difficult to eat and to digest. (Roberts 1992a)
Barrage
A barrage is a relatively low, gated dam built across a river to regulate water discharge.  In the Asian subcontinent, barrages are primarily used to divert water into canals for irrigation and sometimes to facilitate navigation.  During monsoon season flows, the gates are generally left open.  They are then progressively lowered as the flood recedes.
Benign introduction
An attempt to establish a species, for the purpose of conservation, outside its recorded distribution, but within an appropriate habitat and eco-geographical area.
Benthic
Referring to an animal that lives on the bottom of a body of water.
Beta diversity
See diversity - beta.
Biomass
A measure of the abundance of an animal (or group of animals, plants, etc.) in term of the mass ("weight") of the animals, stated as either the total mass of the animals in a given location or per unit area.
Bipedal
Referring to animal that walks on two legs.
Black water
Several different types of water occur within the Amazon River basin. Clear, non-turbid, acidic, "black" water is derived locally from drainage of the forest and is colored by tannin from the breakdown of vegetation and high concentrations of dissolved organic humic acids. Black water areas are grayish black in color.
Blowhole
The opening of the nostril(s) of a whale, located on the top of it's head, through which the whale breathes and from which the "spout" is produced.
Blubber
A layer of fat beneath the skin.
Boreal
Referring to northern regions. Specifically, the region south of the Arctic Circle and north of latitude 50 deg. N; the term may also refer to an area dominated by coniferous forest.
Bovid
A member of the artiodactyl family. Members of this family have unbranched horns comprising a layer of keratin surrounding a bony core.  These horns are never shed, as opposed to the antlers of deer. Bovids also have divided ("cloven") hooves and chew their cud (utilizing a 4-chambered ruminating stomach).  Bovids include cattle, oxen, bison, buffaloes, sheep, goats and antelopes (which include gazelles).  
Brachiate/Brachiation
To move around in trees by arm-swinging beneath branches.
Brackish
Somewhat salty.
Breaching
Leaping headfirst from the water surface (usually by whales).
Brindled
Having inconspicuous dark streaks or flecks on a gray or tawny background.
Bromeliad
One of a family of American epiphytic herbaceous plants including the pineapple and Spanish moss.
Browse
Tender shoots, twigs, and leaves of trees and shrubs used by animals for food.
Browser
A herbivore that feeds on shoots and leaves of trees and/or shrubs, as opposed to herbaceous vegetation (compare "grazer").
Bushveld
A natural region in southern Africa. It is an extensive grassland with thornbushes and with scattered trees, such as acacia and baobab. It is moderately dry and has an elevation of about 800 - 1,200 m (2,500 - 4,000').  
Bycatch
Fish taken in a fishery which are not of the species intended for harvest.

Cache
(noun) A hidden store of food; (verb) to hide food for future use.
Canid
A member of the family Canidae, which includes the dogs, foxes, jackals and wolves.
Canopy
A relatively continuous layer in forests resulting from the intermingling of branches of trees; it may be continuous ("closed") or broken by gaps ("open").
Carapace
A hard, protective outer covering of the back or part of the back of an animal (such as a crab).
Caravaning
A behavior practiced by some animals, such as shrews, where the young follow each other, or the mother, in single file, each one holding on to the tail or hind end of the one in front of it with its teeth.
Carnivore
A meat-eating animal.
Carrion
The dead and rotting body of an animal.
Cataract
Steep rapids in a river.
Cathemeral
Refers to an animal that is active during both daytime and nighttime.  The relative proportions of daytime and nighttime activity may vary with the seasons.
Caudal gland
An enlarged skin gland associated with the root of the tail.
Cellulose
The fundamental constituent of the cell wall of all green plants. It is tough and fibrous and is the principal structural material of plants.
Cerrado
A dry savanna region in central Brazil dotted with patches of sparsely wooded vegetation.
Cervid
A member of the deer family of the artiodactyls.
Cetacean
A whale, dolphin or porpoise.
Chaco
A lowland plains area in Bolivia and Paraguay containing soils carried down from the Andes. It is characterized by dry deciduous forest and scrub, transitional between rain forest & pampas grasslands.
Chaparral
Referring to the vegetation in an area with a Mediterranean climate where the vegetation is dominated by broad-leafed evergreen shrubs with hard or waxy leaves. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.
CITES
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was negotiated in 1973 and originally signed by 85 countries. By October 2003 the total number of participating countries had risen to 161. "It is designed to promote conservation of endangered species while allowing commerce in species of wildlife that can withstand the pressures of trade. The convention has three categories of protection. Under its Appendix I, commercial trade in species that are threatened with extinction is generally prohibited. These species may be traded only under special conditions (usually for scientific research or display purposes). Such transactions require both an import permit from CITES authorities in the recipient country and an export permit from authorities in the country of origin...

CITES allows conditional commercial trade in species that are not yet endangered but merit monitoring. These species are listed on Appendix II and may be traded only with an export permit from their country of origin...

A third appendix to CITES is intended to help individual countries gain international cooperation in protecting native species. Any country may place a native plant or animal on Appendix III, making the species conditionally tradable. The species may not be traded without either an export permit from its native country (if that country listed it on Appendix III) or a certificate of origin (if it comes from a country that did not list it)." (Fitzgerald 1989)

Cline
A graded sequence of differences within a species across its geographical distribution.
Cloud forest
Moist, high-altitude forest characterized by dense understory growth, and abundance of ferns, mosses, orchids and other plants on the trunks and branches of the trees.
Coefficient of variation (CV)
The standard deviation divided by the mean.
Colonial
Referring to animals that live together in colonies.
Commensalism
A one-sided relationship between two species, in which only one benefits and the other is neither benefited nor harmed (e.g. epiphytes such as orchids).
Confidence Interval (CI)
An interval (range of values) such that there is a specific probability that a parameter (e.g. the mean) lies within that interval.  E.g., a "95% confidence interval"  for the mean is a interval such that the probability of the mean lying with that interval is 0.95. The Upper Confidence Limit (Upper CL) and Lower Confidence Limit (Lower CL) refer to the upper and lower ends of the Confidence Interval.
Confluence
A place where two streams flow together to form one larger stream.
Congener
A member of the same species or genus.
Coniferous
Relating to cone-bearing trees.
Coniferous forest
A forest consisting mostly of conifers such as firs, pines and spruces, usually in climates too dry or too cold to support deciduous forest.
Conspecific
Being a member of the same species.
Copepod
A small marine crustacean only a few millimeters (less than 1/8") in diameter.
Cordillera
A system of mountain ranges often consisting of a number of more or less parallel chains.
Crepuscular
Appearing or becoming active at twilight or just before sunrise.
Crude density
The number (or biomass) per unit total space (see "Ecological Density").
Crustacean
A member of a class within the Arthropods which has five pairs of legs, two pairs of antennae, head and thorax joined, and calcareous deposits in the exoskeleton (e.g. crayfish, crabs, and shrimp).
Cryptic
Referring to behavior or coloration that tends to conceal an animal.
Cud
Food brought back up into the mouth by an animal from its first stomach to be chewed again (see "Ruminant").
Cursorial
Refers to an animal possessing limbs adapted for running.
Cyanogenic
Capable of producing cyanide (as hydrogen cyanide).

Deciduous
1. Relating to seasonal loss of leaves; 2. relating to teeth that are replaced by others.
Deciduous forest
A temperate or tropical forest with moderate rainfall and marked seasons. The trees usually shed their leaves during either cold or dry seasons.
Delayed implantation
The reproductive process whereby, after fertilization, the embryo divides a few times and then floats free in the uterus, without further development, for some time (that, depending on the animal, can include up to five months) before implanting on the uterine wall and resuming development.
Demersal
Dwelling at or near the bottom of a body of water.
Demographic
Related to the numbers and density of a population and to changes in the numbers and density.
Den
A shelter, natural or constructed, used for sleeping, for giving birth and raising young, and/or for providing shelter during winter.
Density dependence
The phenomenon by which the values of vital rates such as survivorship and fecundity depend on the density of the population.
Dentition
The number, kind, form and arrangement of teeth.
Desert
Areas of low rainfall, typically with sparse scrub or grassland vegetation, or without any vegetation.
Detritus
Loose material, such as rock fragments or organic particles, that results from disintegration, decay, or wearing away.
Dicotyledon
One of the classes of flowering plants, characterized by the presence of two seed leaves in the young plant, and by net-veined, often broad leaves, in mature plants. Includes deciduous trees.
Digit
A finger or toe.
Digitigrade
Relating to an animal that walks on its toes; as opposed to plantigrade.
Dimorphism
The occurrence of two distinct forms of structure, size, coloring, or other characteristic in a single species. "Sexual dimorphism" occurs where dimorphism exists between the male and female.
Dipterocarp forest
Dry-land tropical rain forest located in Southeast Asia that is characterized by dominance of the Dipterocarpaceae family of trees, which is the main timber family in the forests of Southeast Asia, and usually forms a high proportion of the emergent and main canopy strata of the forest. This type of forest is evergreen, hygrophilous in character, at least 30 m (100') high, and rich in thick-stemmed lianas and woody as well as herbaceous epiphytic growth. These forests are located in the non-seasonal humid zone stretching from Sumatra in the west, through the Malay archipelago, to New Guinea in the east. They comprise at least three-quarters of the forests of Southeast Asia. (Manokaran 1995)
Dispersal
Movement of an animal away from its previous home range. Often refers to the movement of a young animal away from the home range where it was born when it matures.
Display
Any conspicuous pattern of behavior that conveys information to others, usually to members of the same species; e.g. threat or courtship displays.
Distal
Farthest from the body.
Diurnal
Active during daylight hours.
Diversity - alpha
The number of species coexisting within a uniform habitat or a single community (this is the traditional concept of "species diversity").
Diversity - beta
As habitats change along a topographic or climatic gradient, new species are encountered as other species drop out, and this species turnover rate is termed "beta diversity" - a function of changing habitat. An example would be the rate at which the species composition of moss communities changes as you go higher on a mountain slope.
Diversity - gamma
The rate at which additional species are encountered as geographic replacements within a habitat type in different localities; i.e., the species turnover rate with distance between sites of similar habitat, or with expanding geographic areas.
DNA
DNA ("DeoxyriboNucleic Acid") is a long molecule in the shape of a double-stranded helix. It is a polymer (a molecule of similar repeating units which are linked together by a common bonding mechanism) made up of subunits known as nucleotides (which are made up of a phosphate, a sugar, and a base). In DNA, the sugar is deoxyribose. Four bases occur in DNA, and its sequence of paired bases constitute the genetic code of an organism. Particular segments of the DNA molecule constitute genes.
Dormant
Inactive for an extended period. For example, many bears are dormant for a period in winter. As opposed to animals which are hibernating, their pulse rate and body temperature do not decrease significantly.
Dorsal
On the upper or top side or surface; e.g. "dorsal fin".

Echolocation
The process by which an animal locates itself with respect to other animals and objects by emitting sound waves and sensing the pattern of the reflected sound waves.
Ecological density
Ecological (or "specific") density is the number (or biomass) per unit of habitat space (available area or volume that can actually be colonized by the population) (see "Crude density").
Ecological extinction
The reduction of a species to such low abundance that, although it is still present in the community, it no longer interacts significantly with other species.
Ecology
The study of the interrelationships among plants, animals and other organisms and their interaction with all aspects of their natural environmental.
Ecosystem
1. "...the more fundamental conception is ... the whole system ..., including not only the organism-complex, but also the whole complex of physical factors forming what we call the environment of the biome - the habitat factors in the widest sense.

It is the systems so formed which, from the point of view of the ecologist, are the basic units of nature on the face of the earth.

These ecosystems, as we may call them, are of the most various kinds and sizes..."

(Introduction and definition of a new term, "ecosystem," by Alfred Tansley in 1935)

2. All the individuals, species and populations in a spatially defined area, the interactions among them, and those between the organisms and the abiotic environment.

Ecosystem functioning
The sum total of processes operating at the ecosystem level, such as the cycling of matter, energy and nutrients, as well as those processes operating at lower ecological levels which impact on patterns or processes at the ecosystem level (e.g. interactions among species or the transfer of genetic material).
Ecotone
A transition between two or more different habitats; e.g. between forest and grassland.
Ecotype
A genetically induced variety within a single species, adapted for local ecological conditions.
Edentate
A member of an order comprising living and extinct anteaters, armadillos, pangolins and sloths.
Edaphic
Influenced by the soil rather than the climate.
Effective population size
The average number of individuals in a population that actually contribute genes to succeeding generations.
Embryonic diapause
In some species (e.g. in most kangaroo species), at about the time a female gives birth, she also becomes receptive and mates. Embryos produced at this mating develop only as far as a hollow ball of cells (the blastocyst) and then become quiescent, entering a state of suspended animation or "embryonic diapause." The hormonal signal (prolactin) which blocks further development of the blastocyst is produced in response to the sucking stimulus from the young in the pouch. When sucking decreases as the young begins to eat other food and to leave the pouch, or if the young is lost from the pouch, the quiescent blastocyst resumes development, the embryo is born, and the cycle begins again. (Macdonald 1984)
Endemic
A species is "endemic" to a particular area if it occurs naturally only in that area. The term is usually applied to a species with a very limited range, or a species that only occurs in one country.
Enzootic
A disease that is persistently found in an animal population (compare "Epizootic").
Ephemeral
Short-lived, or of brief duration.
Epiphytic
Referring to a plant that lives on the surface of another plant and obtains its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain.
Epizootic
A disease outbreak in an animal population that occurs at a particular time and does not persist (compare "Enzootic").
Equids
A term collectively referring to asses, horses and zebras.
Erg
An Arabic term for the great sand deserts, or sand "seas", of the Sahara Desert (actually, the term erg in Arabic means "a vein or belt"). An erg can be as large as France, covering well over 260,000 sq km (100,000 sq mi). An erg consists mostly of sand, shaped by the wind into dunes, and it may contain salt flats and the exposed gravel surface of the desert floor. (Langewiesche 1996)
Escarpment
A long cliff separating two relatively level or gently sloping surfaces.
Estrus
The period in the estrus cycle of a female mammal when she is usually attractive to males and receptive to mating.
Estrus cycle
In female mammals (other than most primates), the hormonally controlled, regularly repeated stages by which the body is prepared for reproduction.
Estuary
An arm of the sea at the mouth of a river. Usually an estuary is characterized by a two-layer flow, where the top layer consists of fresh water flowing downstream and the bottom layer consists of salt water flowing upstream from the sea.
Etymology
The history of a word shown by tracing its development from another language.
Eurythermic
Referring to an animal that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures ("eury-" = "broad" or "wide").
Exoskeleton
A hard supporting structure on the outside of the body, enclosing all living cells ("external skeleton").
Exotic species
Introduced, non-native species.
Extirpate
To wipe out.
Exudate
A material that has oozed out of something. For example, gum that has oozed out of a tree through a wound in the bark.

Facultative
1. Optional; 2. taking place under some conditions but not under others; 3. exhibiting an indicated lifestyle under some environmental conditions but not under others
Fallow
Referring to a field that has been left untilled or unsown after plowing.
Farrow
To give birth to a pig.
Feces
Bodily waste discharged from the bowels.
Fecundity
The number of offspring produced per unit of time per individual of any given age. Also referred to as "birth rate," maternity rate" or "fertility."
Feral
Referring to domesticated animals which have adapted to living in the wild.
Fluke
One of the lobes of a whale's tail.
Folivore
An animal that eats mainly leaves (i.e., it is "folivorous").
Forage
Food for animals, especially when taken by browsing or grazing.
Forbs
A general term applied to ephemeral plant species (not grasses); in arid and semi-arid regions they grow abundantly after rains.
Form
A shallow resting hollow dug by a hare, which it lies in during the day. The form may be dug out slightly more deeply at one end than the other - the deeper end accommodates the hare's large and powerful hind quarters. The form may be oriented so that the hare can sit with its back against the wind.
Fossorial
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior.
Frugivorous
Referring to an animal (a "frugivore") that eats mainly fruits.
Fruiting body
An organ of a fungus which carries or produces spores for the fungus' reproduction. For example, a mushroom is a fruiting body of a fungus; the main body of the fungus is underground and consists of a network formed from a mass of tubular, branching filaments.
Fungus (plural "Fungi")
One of a group of non-flowering lower plants that lack chlorophyll and the organized plant structure of stems, roots, and leaves. Fungi have two common characteristics: they grow principally through the extension of a mass of interwoven filaments, via growth at the tips of the filaments; and their nutrition is based on the absorption of organic matter.
Furbearer
An animal whose pelt has commercial value and is subject to being harvested.

Gallery forest
Luxuriant forest lining the banks of waterways.
Gametophyte
The individual or generation of a plant exhibiting alternation of generations that bears sex organs (compare "Sporophyte").
Gamma diversity
See diversity - gamma.
Gene
Each gene is a linear segment of a DNA molecule that includes a specific sequence of paired bases. The genes belonging to each cell are arranged on chromosomes, which are simply giant molecules of DNA. Each gene is responsible for a single inherited property or characteristic of the organism. Higher organisms like flies or humans have 50,000 - 100,000 genes. Simple organisms like bacteria have 2000 - 3000 genes.
Generation (or "Generation time")
A period of time characteristic of an animal species and/or population that can be calculated as:
  1. The average age of parents in the population (used in the criteria for the 1996 IUCN Red Data List categories), or
  2. The average age at first breeding, or
  3. The time from a given stage in an animal’s life to the same stage in the animal’s offspring’s life (e.g. the time between when an animal is born and when its offspring is born)
Genus (plural "Genera")
A taxonomic division that generally refers to a group of animals which are similar in structure and descent but are not all able to breed among themselves. For example, the lion, leopard and tiger all belong to the genus "Panthera."
Germinate
To begin to grow.
Gestation
Pregnancy; the period from implantation of the embryo in the uterus to birth.
Gibber desert or plains
Large areas in Australia covered by small, rounded pebbles, rocky ranges and low scrubby vegetation.
GIS
A "GIS" (Geographic Information System) is a means of storing and manipulating a variety of geographic information (e.g. vegetation, animal species distributions, land use) in a computer in a way such that the information can be combined and analyzed in different ways for management purposes.
Glean
To gather food (e.g. insects) bit by bit.
Gran Chaco
The Gran Chaco is a flat plain in the region of northern Argentina, southeastern Bolivia and western Paraguay and with a mosaic of vegetation types including thorn forest, savanna, marsh and gallery forest.
Granivorous
Referring to animals that feed on seeds or grain.
Grazer
A herbivore that feeds on herbaceous vegetation (compare "browser.").
Gregarious
Tending to associate with other animals of its kind; habitually living with other animals of its kind.
Guard hair
Part of the coat of some animals consisting of longer, stiffer hairs which lie outside and support the warmer, softer underfur.

Habitat
The natural characteristics of the area where an animal lives; the particular location where an animal normally lives.
Harem
A group of females associated with one male - used in reference to polygamous animals .
Haul out
Referring to an animal such as a seal pulling itself ashore.
Heath
An area dominated by low-growing shrubs with woody stems and narrow leaves (e.g. heather), which often predominate on acidic or upland soils.
Helper
An animal, usually without young of its own, which contributes to the survival of the offspring of others by behaving parentally towards the offspring.
Herb
A plant that has little or no woody tissue and usually persists only for a single growing season.
Herbaceous
Referring to a plant that has little or no woody tissue and usually persists only for a single growing season.
Herbivore
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
Hertz (Hz)
A measurement unit used to describe the frequency of sound. One Hertz (Hz) equals one cycle per second. The frequency of the note "A above middle C" on the piano is 440 Hz. The range of human hearing is generally between 16 and 20,000 Hz.
Heterospory
The production of microspores and megaspores (as in ferns and seed plants)..
Heterozygosity - average
Sum the number of heterozygous individuals for each gene, divide this by the total number of individuals in the sample, and average over all genes.
Heterozygous
Referring to an individual in which the alleles of a given gene are different.
Hibernating
Remaining inactive for a period in the winter during which the normal physiological process is significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements.
Holotype
The single specimen of the animals which is designated by an author to represent the type of a species at the time the species is established.
Home range
The area in which an animal normally lives, whether or not it defends the area from other animals; the area that an animal learns thoroughly and habitually patrols; the amount of land used by an animal throughout the year.
Hybrid
The offspring of parents of different species.
Hybridization
The process whereby animals of one genetic stock (e.g. an endangered species) breed with animals of another genetic stock (e.g. another species, or domestic stocks of the same species), resulting in hybrid offspring that have lost the pure genetic characteristics of   the original stock.
Hygrophilous
Living or growing in moist places.

Igapo
Forested land in the Amazon River basin that is seasonally flooded by acidic, nutrient-poor black water. Compare varzea.
Incisor
One of the chisel-shaped teeth at the front of the mouth.
Indigenous
Native to a particular country or area.
Induced ovulation
See "Ovulation - induced".
Insectivore
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
Insectivorous
Referring to an animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
Invertebrate
An animal which lacks a backbone (such as an insect, spider or crustacean).
Isohyet
A line on a map that connects places with equal rainfall.
Iteroparity
A species which has iteroparity reproduces more than once over a period of time (it is "iteroparous").
IUCN categories
See Notes.

Kaingin
Philippine term for temporary agricultural plots cleared from the forest by native people. The soil of such plots is rapidly exhausted and new plots have to be cleared every few years.
Keratin
A group of fibrous proteins, usually containing large amounts of sulphur, which form the structural bases of hair, wool, nails, horns and other external structures in animals. 
Knoll
A small, round hill.
Krill
Small crustaceans which occur in huge numbers in polar seas, particularly off of Antarctica. They comprise the main prey of baleen whales. The term can be used generally to apply to all such food organisms, but it is frequently used to refer specifically to shrimp-like animals of the group Euphausiacae, especially the Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba. This species is the most important food source for southern whales and other animals. It is about 2.5 cm (1") long, and has been observed in swarms as large as an estimated 2.5 million metric tons (2.8 million tons) (Bonner 1989).

Lactation
Lactation refers to the secretion and yielding of milk by females after giving birth.
Lateritic
Lateritic soils are comprised of a wide variety of red, brown, and yellow soils. They are characterized by the presence of iron and aluminum oxides or hydroxides, particularly those of iron, which give the colors to the soils.
Leeward Islands
The Leeward Islands include the Virgin Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla. They're called the Leeward Islands because they are away from the wind ("lee"). The Leeward Islands are part of the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean Sea.
Legume
A plant of the family Leguminosae (Fabaceae), which has a pod containing dry seeds, as well as nodules on the roots that contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The family includes herbs, shrubs and trees such as peas, beans, lentils, clover, and alfalfa.
Leguminous
Relating to or consisting of plants that are legumes.
Liana
A climbing plant.
Lichen
A lichen is a symbiotic association of a specific fungus and a specific alga that is so integrated functionally and morphologically that a third kind of organism is formed which resembles neither of its components.  Lichens are usually classified as single "species" even though they are composed of two unrelated species.  They grow on a solid surface such as rock or bark.
Llano
Semi-arid savanna found in South America.
Lobtailing
Slapping the water repeatedly with the flukes.
Locomotion
The act or power of moving from place to place.
Longitudinal
Extending lengthwise.

Mallee
A grassy, open woodland habitat characteristic of many semi-arid parts of Australia. "Mallee" also describes the multi-stemmed habit of eucalypt trees which dominate this habitat.
Mangrove forest
A tropical forest that has developed on sheltered, muddy shores of deltas and estuaries exposed to tide. The vegetation is almost entirely woody.
Marantaceae forest
A rather open canopy forest with a thick tangle of large leafed herbaceous plants at ground level belonging to the Marantaceae and Zingiberaceae (ginger) families. This vegetation is extremely thick, almost impenetrable in places (although not for gorillas), and it provides both thick cover and plenty to eat. (Cons. Intl)
Marine
Native to or inhabiting the sea.
Mark-Recapture
A technique for estimating the number of animals in a population.  A sample of the population is captured, marked, and released.  Assuming that these marked individuals become randomly distributed throughout the wild population, and that subsequent trapping is random, any new sample should contain a representative proportion of marked to unmarked individuals.  From this, the size of the total population may be estimated, most simply by dividing the number in the first sample by the fraction of marked individuals in the recaptured sample. (Allaby 1991)
Marsupial
A member of a group of mammals 1) that generally do not have a placenta and 2) whose females generally have a pouch on the abdomen containing the nipples, where newborn young are carried. Marsupials include bandicoots, kangaroos, opossums, wombats and others.
Massif
A block of the earth's crust bounded by faults or folds; a group of mountains formed by such a structure.
Mast
Nuts accumulated on the forest floor and often serving as food for animals.
Matriarchal
Relating to a type of social organization among animals where the family group is lead by a female.
Matriline
A related group of animals linked by descent through females alone.
Mean
Same as "average" (also called the "arithmetic mean").
Median
The value that represents the point at which there are as many instances above as there are below (e.g., the "median" of a group of persons earning 3, 4, 5, 8, and 20 dollars a day is 5 dollars (note: the average is 8 dollars)).
Mediterranean climate
A climate with cool wet winters and dry summers.
Megaspore
A spore in heterosporous plants that gives rise to female gametophytes and is generally larger than a microspore.
Melanistic
Having a high level of blackish pigmentation which produces a very dark or black color.
Membrane
A thin, soft, pliable sheet or layer.
Mesic
A habitat characterized by a moderate amount of moisture.
Microspore
One of the spore in heterosporous plants that give rise to male gametophytes and are generally smaller than the megaspore.
Miombo
Miombo is a vernacular word that has been adopted by ecologists to describe those woodland ecosystems dominated by trees in the genera Brachystegia, Julbernardia and Isoberlinia of the family Fabaceae. Such woodlands extend across about 2.8 million sq km (1.1 million sq mi) of the southern subhumid tropical zone from Tanzania and Zaire in the north, through Zambia, Malawi and eastern Angola, to Zimbabwe and Mozambique in the south. Their distribution largely coincides with the flat to gently undulating surfaces that form the Central African plateau. The soils are predominantly infertile. These woodlands constitute the largest more-or-less contiguous block of deciduous tropical woodlands and dry forests in the world. (IGBP 1997)
Molecular genetics
The branch of genetics that deals with issues such as how a gene is copied, how a mutation arises, how genes are turned on and off when their activity is needed or not needed, what are the chemical products of genes, and what is the precise sequence of the chemical building blocks of DNA in genes.
Monogamy; Monogamous
Referring to a mating system where males and females each have only one mate per breeding season (compare polyandry, polygamy, and polygyny).
Monophagous
Referring to an organism that subsists on only one kind of food.
Monotreme
The monotremes are the only egg-laying mammals.  They include the platypus and the echidnas (e.g. the long-nosed echidna).
Monotypic
Referring to a genus that comprises a single species (see Scientific name).
Monsoon
A seasonal wind from the southwest, occurring from April to October, that brings very heavy rainfall to India and nearby areas.
Montane
Pertaining to mountainous country.
Morphology
The form and structure of an animal.
Mosaic
A pattern formed by clumps of different objects arranged with more or less regularity over a surface.
Multi-male Group
A permanent grouping of animals of the same species that consists of several adult males, several adult females and their offspring.

Natal
Associated with an animal's birth.
Nocturnal
Active during nighttime.
Nose-leaf
Some bats have a fleshy structure called a " nose-leaf" surrounding the nose. These bats generally fly with their mouth closed and emit ultrasound through their nostrils. The nose-leaf is thought to act as a directional amplifier of this ultrasound, which is used to avoid obstacles and locate prey.

Obligate
Required.
Oestrus cycle
See estrus cycle.
Omnivorous
Referring to an animal that eats both plant and animal life.
Order
One of the categories of taxonomy by which animals are hierarchically classified. It ranks above "family" and below "class".
Overstory
1. The forest canopy layer above the shrubs, herbs and small trees in a forest. 2. The upper level of vegetation in a two-level vegetation system (see understory).
Ovulation - induced
Ovulation that is triggered by copulation.

Palynology
A branch of science dealing with pollen and spores.
Pampas
1. Argentinean steppe grasslands; 2. grassland created by burning and cattle occupation.
Pantanal
An area on the Brazil-Bolivia-Paraguay frontier that covers more than 100,000 sq km (38,000 sq mi) and is best characterized by its low degree of land relief and annual flooding; swampy savanna.
Paramo
Alpine meadow of northern and western South American uplands.
Parous
Referring to a female who has produced offspring.
Parturition
The process of giving birth.
Pastoralism
A social organization based on livestock raising as the primary economic activity.
Pectoral fins
The pair of fins that are located one on each side of a fish or cetacean just behind the gills.
Pelage
The hairy covering of a mammal.
Perennial
Referring to a plant that continues to live for several years.
pH
A (logarithmic) scale ranging from 0 to 14, which is used to determine how acidic or basic a substance is. Pure water has a pH of 7. Substances with a pH less than 7 are acids and substances with a pH greater than 7 are bases.
Philopatric
Referring to an animal that has a tendency to return to or stay in its home area, or to return yearly to the same area to breed.
Photo-trapping
A method of observing hard-to-see animals by taking their pictures automatically, using remote cameras triggered when the animal interrupts an infrared light beam.
Phylogenetic
Referring to the closeness of evolutionary descent.
Physiology
The study of the functioning of living organisms and of the functioning of their constituent tissues or cells.
Placenta
An internal organ providing nourishment to and removing waste products from the blood of an unborn young. The unborn young's blood is conveyed to the placenta via the umbilical cord.
Plankton
A body of water's animal ("zooplankton") and plant ("phytoplankton") life, usually microscopic to small in size, that floats or swims weakly.
Plant exudate
A substance that has oozed out of a plant at the site of insect or other damage.  For example, gum that has oozed out of a tree through a wound in the bark.
Plantigrade
Relating to an animal that walks on the sole of its feet with the heel touching the ground; as opposed to digitigrade.
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene Epoch began approximately 1.8 million years ago and ended about 11,000 years ago.
Podzolization
A process of soil formation, especially in humid regions and often under coniferous or mixed forest , involving principally leaching of the upper layers with accumulation of material in lower layers and development of a group of soils (the soils are called "podzols") that have an organic mat and a thin organic-mineral layer above a gray leached layer resting on a dark alluvial horizon enriched with amorphous clay.
Pollen
A mass of microspores in a seed plant appearing usually as a fine dust (in flowering plants, formed in the anthers that produce the male cells).
Pollen grain
One of the granular microspores that occur in pollen and give rise to the male gametophyte of a seed plant.
Polyandry; Polyandrous
Referring to a mating system where a female can mate with several males during one breeding season, but a male mates with only one female (compare monogamy, polygamy and polygyny).
Polyestrous
Referring to a female that has two or more estrus cycles in one breeding season.
Polygamy; Polygamous
Referring to a mating system where males and females each can have more than one mate per breeding season (compare monogamy, polyandry and polygyny).
Polygyny; Polygynous
Referring to a mating system where a male can mate with several females during one breeding season, but a female mates with only one male (compare monogamy, polyandry and polygamy).
Polymorphic gene
A gene at which the most common allele has a frequency of occurrence of less than 0.95.
Polyphagous
Referring to an animal that feeds on many kinds of food.
Population
A group of animals of the same species that occupies a particular area; usually refers to a group that is somewhat separate from other groups of the same species.
Precocial
Refers to young mammals which are born with their eyes and ears open and are able to stand and walk, regulate their body temperature, and excrete without assistance. The young of grazing animals (e.g. cattle, sheep, and horses) are precocial. (Compare "altricial".) (Allaby 1991)
Predation
The action of a predator in killing and eating its prey.
Predator
An animal that eats other animals.
Prehensile
Capable of, or adapted for, grasping.
Prey
An animal that is hunted or caught for food by another animal (the "predator").
Proboscis
A long, flexible nose or trunk.
Promiscuous
Referring to a mating system where a member of one sex mates with more than one member of the other sex, and each relationship is ephemeral and terminates after mating without a social bond being formed.
Prosimian
Scientists refer to lemurs (includes sifakas), lorises, galagos, pottos, and tarsiers as "prosimians" to distinguish them from monkeys, apes and humans. "Prosimian" means "pre-ape", that is, primates that appear in the fossil record before monkeys, apes and humans. They more closely resemble primitive primates that lived millions or tens of millions of years ago than do other living primates. Generally, prosimians look and act much differently than monkeys and apes. For example, lemurs tend to have longer fox-like, wet noses, compared to monkeys which have flatter faces and dry noses. One could guess from this difference that smell plays a greater role in prosimian behavior than it does in that of monkeys, who tend to be more visually oriented. (Duke Univ. 2003)

Quadrupedal
Applied to an animal that walks on four feet; or, in the case of a primate, that uses its hands and feet for walking.

Race
An interbreeding group of individuals all of whom are genetically distinct from the members of other such groups of the same species. Usually these groups are geographically isolated from each another. (Allaby 1991)
Range
The geographical area over which an animal is distributed.
Red Tide
"Red Tide" is a common name for a phenomenon whereby, under certain conditions, a species of algae that contain reddish pigments reproduces quickly and produces huge numbers of algae (i.e. "blooms") such that the water appears to be colored red. Although most such species of algae do not produce toxic chemicals, some do, and the term "red tide" has come to mean the blooming of a toxic form of red-pigmented algae that can be transmitted through the aquatic food chain and harm higher organisms including fish, marine mammals, and even humans that feed either directly or indirectly on them.
Relict
A persistent remnant of an otherwise extinct flora or fauna.
Restinga
An area containing scrubby vegetation typical of sand marine barrier islands .
Riparian
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
Roost
To settle down for rest or sleep.
Rorqual
The rorquals are those baleen whales that are characterized by the presence of conspicuous grooves, or pleats, on their throats. (The word "rorqual" is derived from the Old Norse word for "grooved whale.") Rorquals include the minke, sei, Bryde's, blue, fin, and humpback whales.
Rostrum
The "snout" or "beak" of a dolphin or whale.
Ruminant
An animal with a specialized digestive system which includes chewing the cud.
Rut
A period of concentrated sexual activity; the mating season.

Sahel
The ecoclimatic region that borders the Sahara Desert to the south in the 6000 km (3720 mi) long, 500 km (310 mi) wide strip crossing the continent of Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea between the 100 mm (4") and 600 mm (24") isohyets of mean annual rainfall. It is characterized by low and erratic rainfall with little vegetation, most of which is seasonal. The word "Sahel" comes from the Arabic word for "edge".
Savanna
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest.
Scansorial
An organism that climbs or is given to climbing.
Scat
Feces of an animal.
Scientific name
The "scientific name" of an animal consists of two levels of its taxonomic classification, the "genus" and "species." Scientific names are usually in Latin. They should be printed in italics, with the genus capitalized and the species not capitalized. Thus the scientific name of the tiger is "Panthera (genus) tigris (species)." Sometimes a species is further subdivided into subspecies, and the subspecies name (not capitalized) is added to the scientific name. Thus the Siberian tiger's scientific name is "Panthera tigris altaica". Once the scientific name of a species has been mentioned in a publication, the genus is frequently abbreviated in subsequent occurrences (e.g. the tiger's scientific name would be written "P. tigris").  Once the scientific name of a subspecies has been mentioned, the genus and species are frequently abbreviated in subsequent occurrences (e.g. the Siberian tiger's scientific name would be written "P. t. altaica").
Sclerophyll forest
A general term for hard-leafed forest, such as the eucalypt forest that covers much of Australia.
Scree
An accumulation of stones or rocky debris lying on a slope or at the base of a hill or cliff.
Sedentary
Not migratory.
Sedge
A family of grasslike plants found in all parts of the world, especially in marshes of subarctic and temperate zones. Sedges differ from true grasses in having solid, angular (usually triangular) stems.
Seed Predation
Destruction of a seed as a result of consumption by a seed predator; e.g., a mouse eating grain.
Semelparity
Referring to a species whose animals only reproduce once.
Seral
Relating to a series of ecological communities that succeed one another in the biological development of an area.
Serengeti
An area of plains and open woodland in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya in East Africa.  It includes the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the adjoining Masai Mara Park in Kenya. The Serengeti is just south of the Equator and has an area of about 25,000 sq km (about 10,000 sq mi).
Sexual dichromatism
A form of sexual dimorphism in which the sexes are identical in size but have different coloration.
Sexual dimorphism
See "Dimorphism".
Sierra
A range of mountains, especially with a serrated or irregular outline.
Silverback
An adult male gorilla, so called because of his coat coloring.
Sounder
The collective term for a group of pigs.
Species
A taxonomic division that generally refers to a group of animals which are similar in structure and descent and are able to breed among themselves.
Species Survival Plan
The Species Survival Plan (SSP) program is a cooperative population management and conservation program for selected species in zoos and aquariums in North America. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.  As of early 2003, 108 SSPs covering 159 individual species are administered by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
Specific density
See "Ecological density".
Spelunker
A person who explores and/or studies caves.
Spermatogenesis
The process of sperm production.
Spinifex
A grass which grows in large, distinctive clumps or hummocks in the driest areas of central and western Australia.
Sporangium (plural "sporangia")
A structure within which spores are produced.
Spore
A primitive, usually unicellular reproductive body produced by plants and capable of development into a new individual, either directly or after fusion with another spore.
Sporophyte
The individual or generation of a plant exhibiting alternation of generations that bears asexual spores. (compare "Gametophyte".).
Stamen
The male organ of a flower, composed of a filament topped by an anther (usually several in each flower).
Steppe
Open grassy plains in the temperate zone, characterized by low and sporadic rainfall and a wide annual temperature variation.
Stochastic
Random; exhibiting variability due to random events.
Subspecies
Technically, a subgroup of a species that is allocated a Latin name. The number of subgroups recognized within a species and the allocation of names to them is something of an arbitrary procedure. Variations do occur within species, but there are no clear rules for identifying them as subspecies except that they must be: a) geographically distinct; b) populations, not merely a group of animals that differs in some morphological respect from other members of the species; and c) different to some degree from other geographic populations. (Allaby 1991)
Succession
The progressive replacement of one ecological community by another until a relatively stable community occupies the area.
Successional
Referring to something that is undergoing the process of succession.
Sundarbans
The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna River come together in Bangladesh to form a 10,000 sq km (3850 sq mi) delta, the largest in the world. At the edge of the delta is the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest.
Super-group
A super-group forms when two or more groups of animals of a species (e.g. Drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) or Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx)) come together for short periods.
Symbiosis
The intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms, frequently (but not always) in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Sympatric
Relating to two or more animals whose geographical ranges overlap (compare Allopatric).

Talus
Rock debris at the base of a cliff.
Tannin
A brown pigment found in leaves and other parts of plants. It causes the brown color of leaves after all other colors have disappeared. It is present throughout the growing season but is masked by the chlorophylls (greens), xanthophylls and carotenes (yellows and oranges), and anthocyanin (reds and purples). Tannin solutions are acid and have an astringent taste.
Taxonomic, Taxonomy
Referring to the science of hierarchically classifying animals by categories (phylum (pl. phyla), class, order, family, genus (pl. genera), species and subspecies) which share common features and are thought to have a common evolutionary descent.
Terai
A 8-24 km (5-15 mile) wide belt of swampy grass jungle generally between the Himalayan foothills and the plains of India. It extends from northeast Uttar Pradesh (India) in the east, through southern Nepal and northwest Bengal (India) to northwest Assam (India) and adjacent parts of extreme southern Bhutan.
Terrestrial
Living on the ground.
Territorial
Referring to an animal that maintains a territory within its home range, by fighting or aggressive gestures, from which it excludes others of its own kind.
Territory
An exclusive area maintained through overt defense or advertisement; the part of the home range of an animal that is protected, by fighting or aggressive gestures, from others of its own kind, during some phase of its life.
Thorax
The portion of the body between the head and abdomen of certain species that bears whatever legs and wings are present.
Threatened
The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as "Endangered" (E), "Vulnerable" (V), "Rare" (R), "Indeterminate" (I), or "Insufficiently Known" (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals and  2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as "Critically Endangered" (CR), "Endangered" (EN), or "Vulnerable" (VU).
Torpor
A state where an animal's metabolism, breathing rate, heartbeat and body temperature each decreases to a level lower than normal. In cold weather, torpor decreases the temperature difference between the animal's body and the outside air. Therefore the animal's rate of heat loss is lowered, and it can maintain its (reduced) body temperature more easily. By slowing metabolism, all tissues use less energy. In hot weather, torpor decreases water loss due to evaporation, excretion and respiration. During torpor, the animal doesn't seem to see, hear, or feel things going on around it, and it takes longer to "wake up" than from normal sleep.
Turbid
Referring to a water body that is thick or opaque with suspended sediment.
Type locality
The locality from which a species or subspecies was first described.

Understory
The layer of shrubs, herbs and small trees beneath the forest canopy.  The upper level of vegetation in a two-level vegetation system (see overstory).
Ungulate
A hoofed mammal which is usually adapted for running. Includes deer, cattle, gazelles, horses, elephants, and hyraxes. Most are large herbivores. The term no longer has taxonomic significance.

Varzea
Floodplain forest that is seasonally inundated by nutrient-rich white water. This habitat is found in the Solimoes/Amazon River system. It is seasonally inundated, with annual fluctuations in water level of up to 15 m (50'). It includes tall forest, which is restricted to narrow interlinked corridors (restingas) located on alluvial levees marking the deposition areas of old watercourses. This vegetation is flooded for less than six months each year. Areas of low, dense scrub (chavascais) separate the restingas, with some open grassy areas and many ribbon-like lakes. This low vegetation is flooded for more than half the year, usually being submerged completely. At peak flood, only the canopies of the restinga trees can be seen above the water (Ayres & Johns 1987). Compare igapo.
Vascular Plant
A plant with a specialized system of channels for carrying fluids that includes xylem (thick walled, water conducting cells) and phloem (thin-walled food-conducting tissue) plus any associated tissues.
Veldt
A grassland, especially in southern Africa, and usually having scattered shrubs or trees.
Ventral
Related to the front or lower surface of an animal, opposite to the animal's back.
Vertebrate
An animal (including amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles) with a backbone.

Wadi
A shallow, usually sharply defined depression in a desert region, frequently comprising a bed or valley of a stream that is usually dry except during the rainy season and that often forms an oasis.
Warren
A maze of passageways.
Warty
A term applied to certain species of wild pigs. The "warty pigs" are so-called because the adult males typically develop three pairs of warts: on the cheek swellings, on the jaw angle, and above the canine root flanges.
Watershed
A watershed consists of all of the land area that drains to a particular body of water.
Weaning
The time when a young animal stops nursing and begins utilizing other food.
Weir
1. A fence set in a waterway for catching fish; 2. A dam in a stream to raise the water level or divert its flow.
West Indies
The West Indies are composed of the islands of the Caribbean Sea and can be divided into the Greater Antilles and the Lesser Antilles.
White water
Several different types of water occur within the Amazon River basin. Opaque, so-called "white" water (actually yellowish-brown in color) is turbid, laden with sediments. It is brought from the Andes by the main, relatively straight, and fast-flowing "whitewater" rivers.
Windward Islands
The Windward Islands are southeastern islands of the Caribbean and include Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, and Grenada. They're called the Windward Islands because they are exposed to the wind ("windward") of the northeast trade winds (northeasterlies). The Windward Islands are part of the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean Sea.

Zacaton
A bunch grass habitat, mainly consisting of Epicampes, Festuca and Muhlenbergia, unique to central Mexico.
Zooplankton
Small (often microscopic) aquatic animals suspended or weakly swimming in water.

Home | Rarest Mammals | Species Index | Species Groups Index | Country Index | Links


Last modified: May 25, 2005;

1999 - 2014 Animal Info. Endangered animals of the world. SJ Contact Us.