Animal Info - Glossary M

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; related to the sea or seawater.
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.
Matriarch
A female who is the leader of a family group of 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.
Metabolism
The total of all the chemical reactions that occur within a living organism.
Microspore
One of the spore in heterosporous plants that give rise to male gametophytes and are generally smaller than the megaspore.
Middleveld
See "Veld".
Minimum Convex Polygon
A method for estimating the home range of an animal by plotting on a map all of the locations where the animal is known to have been, drawing a polygon that encloses all the points, then estimating the area of the polygon.
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.
Moss Forest
A forest where there is a large amount of moss, either growing on trees or on the ground.
Multi-male Group
A permanent grouping of animals of the same species that consists of several adult males, several adult females and their offspring.

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Last modified: June 3, 2006;

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