Glossary of Terms

Did you read a word you don't know? Look it up here to find out what it means!

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Glossary (A - G) (H - P) (Q - Z)

Abdomen - Where most animal have their digestive organs. With insects, it is the last and largest of the three body sections. Some insects have a stinger on the tip. With spiders, it is the last of the two body sections, and it has spinnerets (to make thread) on the tip.

Achene - A small dry fruit with one seed inside.

Acorn - Fruit from an oak tree (nut).

Adult - The final stage of an animal that goes through metamorphosis (cycle of change). With most insects, it is the fourth stage, after it comes out of a pupa. For example, a butterfly is an adult after it comes out of a chrysalis. With frogs, it is an adult after it has changed from a tadpole.

Allelopathy - When one plant releases chemicals which cause certain other plants around it to grow slowly.

Algae - Small organisms, mostly living in water, some of which are considered plants and some of which are considered protists. Many of them only have one cell. Algae is eaten by many aquatic animals. Terrestrial (land) algae is shelter and food for small animals like springtails and mites.

Allergy - When a person is very sensitive to certain foods, liquids, pollen, or animals. The allergy can make the person ill, including sneezing, itching, and rashes. Severe allergies can even be fatal (cause death). Some organisms which cause uncomfortable allergies with people include Ragweed (pollen), Poison Ivy (oil), and Honey Bees (venom).

Amphibian - Cold-blooded, smooth-skinned animals from the Chordate Phylum. This class of animals includes frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts. Some live on land and some in the water, but most species return to the water to mate and lay eggs.

Amplexus - The mating position of frogs and toads. The male "hugs" the female and waits for her to lay eggs so that he can fertilize them. Amplexus can last for hours, or sometimes even days. While the frogs are in amplexus, the female swims or hops away from danger, and the male gets a piggy-back ride.

Anesthetic - A chemical which causes an organism not to feel pain. Mosquitos, ticks, and leeches have an anesthetic in their saliva so that their host cannot feel them feeding.

Annual - A plant that lives for only one year. It grows from a seed (usually in Spring), flowers, and then grows fruits. It dies when cold weather arrives.

Antenna - (more than one = antennae) Main sense organ on insects, crustaceans, and some other animals. Antennae are used to collect information from the environment, including the location of food sources and possible dangers.

Anti-coagulant - A chemical that keeps blood from clotting. In most animals blood naturally clots (stops up) when their is a wound. Some parasites, like leeches, have an anti-coagulant in their saliva so blood will flow freely for them to drink.

Aquatic - Describes an organism that lives in or near water.

Arthropod - An animal in the Arthropod Phylum. Thes animals have exoskeletons (hard part is on the outside), jointed legs, and segmented bodies (split into sections). This phylum includes insects, spiders, crustaceans, centipedes, and millipedes.

Associate - A plant that is known to grow with another plant. For example, Common Cattail often grows with Yellow Pond Lily, so the pond lily is associated with cattails. Sometimes associated plants compete with each other for resources (light, water, soil, space). Other times they protect each other, such as when trees block the wind from other trees or larger plants provide shade for smaller plants. Some plants even grow on top of each other, or climb up other plants.

Bacteria - Microscopic organisms from the Moneran Kingdom. Some bacteria are very helpful and others carry harmful diseases.

Barbel - A whisker-like sense organ of certain fishes, including catfish and carp. These fish use their barbels to "feel" along the bottom for food.

Bark - The tough outer covering of trunks or stems of trees, shrubs, and vines.

Bask - What snakes, turtles, lizards, and other reptiles do to maintain their body temperature. Reptiles need sunlight to help them digest their food, so they often lay on logs or rocks to soak up sunlight.

Beneficial - Helpful to humans.

Biennial - A plant that lives for two years. In the first year, the plant grows a rosette. In the second year, it sends up stems with flowers and fruits. A biennial plant dies at the end of the second year.

Bill - The mouthpart of a bird; also called a "beak."

Bird - Warm-blooded, feathered animals from the Chordate Phylum. Birds usually move by flying, and they have hollow bones which make them light enough to do so. Birds build nests and lay eggs.

Breed - When animals make young. Breeding season includes the time taken to attract a mate and to reproduce (make new young).

Brood - Group of young. Some animals mate and have more than one brood in a year.

Browse - The name for plants that deer, rabbits, beavers, or other mammals munch on. Browse is usually small plants, very young trees, or leaves and twigs on larger trees.

Bud - A small bumpy part of a twig or stem on a plant. This is where new leaves or flowers are made in the Spring.

Burrow - A hole in the ground that serves as shelter for an animal.

Cache - A pile of food hidden away for Winter. Some squirrels and birds cache nuts and seeds to get them through cold weather.

Camouflage - The ability of an animal to blend in with its surroundings. Color, patterns, and body shape all help the animal do this.

Cap - The top "umbrella-like" part of a fungus; espcially a mushroom. Underneath the cap, most mushrooms have gills which release spores.

Carnivore - An animal that eats mostly other animals. A predator. A few plants are also carnivorous.

Carrion - Dead animals. Some animals, such as crows and vultures, eat carrion. This is important since they help "clean up" this dead material.

Caterpillar - The insect larva of a butterfly or moth.

Catkin - A thick, cylinder-shaped cluster of flowers on a tree. Catkins often droop.

Cavity - A hole or hollow area, especially inside a tree. Many animals, such as woodpeckers and raccoons, live in them.

Cell - The building blocks of life. All living things (organisms) are made of cells.

Cephalothorax - The front body section on spiders, ticks, and crayfish. Instead of three body sections like insects, these animals only have two (cephalothorax and abdomen).

Chrysalis - The pupa stage of a butterfly.

Class - The third group that scientists classify living things into. Each phylum is split into classes. Example: The Mammal Class is in the Chordate Phylum.

Club Mosses - Short plants that are more like ferns than real mosses. Examples include Running Cedar and Ground Pine.

Clutch - A group of eggs (especially reptiles).

Cluster - Large group of flowers or fruits on a plant. Some plants have many flowers growing close together in a cluster. Clusters may be long or ball-shaped. Later, fruits replace the flowers.

Cocoon - The pupa stage of a moth or other insect. Usually "cocoon" refers to the outer layer that contains the pupa inside. Cocoons may be made of silk spun from a caterpillar, or dead leaves or wood, cemented together with saliva. Earthworms (which are not insects) lay their eggs in cocoons; a different kind of cocoon, which protects the egg.

Colony - A large group of a single species of organism, living close together. Some animals that live in colonies include ants and termites. Some plants that live in colonies include Yellow Pond Lily, cattails, and crabgrass.

Commensalism - A relationship between two organisms where one species is helped, but the other is unaffected. See the Relationships page for more explanation.

Common - Often seen or known to be in an area.

Competition - A relationship between two organisms where both demand the same resources, such as food, water, living space, or light. See the Relationships page for more explanation.

Cone - A cylinder or egg-shaped structure of scaly plates which contains seeds. Certain plants, especially pine trees, have cones instead of regular fruits.

Consume - 1. Eat. 2. Use up.

Courtship - The way two animals attract each other to mate.

Cover - Protection for an organism, usually a plant. Animals use plants to hide and protect themselves.

Covey - A family or small flock of birds. Especially refers to game birds, such as turkeys, doves, or bobwhites.

Crepuscular - Times in the morning and evening when it is between daylight and dark. Crepuscular times are when some animal species are most active, including Eastern Gray Squirrels and White-tailed Deer.

Crown - The top part of a plant or tree, where most of the leaves, flowers, and fruits grow.

Debris - Scattered, old remains of plants and animals. Underwater, debris found on the bottom may include leaf and stem parts, old mussel shells, sticks, etc. Debris on a forest floor may include dead leaves, pieces of bark, twigs, and nut shells.

Decay - To break down into smaller parts. When plants or animals die, their bodies decay. The nutrients that made up their bodies then go back into the soil and are re-used. Decomposers are organisms that help decay.

Deciduous - Describes a tree or plant that loses its leaves in the Fall.

Decomposer - An organism that breaks down the bodies or parts of dead plant or animal matter into smaller pieces (decay). Decomposers, such as mushrooms, bacteria, and earthworms, are very important in food webs.

Dense - Tightly packed together.

Detritus - Tiny bits of dead plant and animal material in water.

Dewlap - A fold of loose skin under the throat of an animal. Male frogs and toads fill thier dewlaps with air to make a sound to attract females during breeding season.

Diet - What an animal eats for food.

Dimorphic - When the male and female of a species look different. For example, a male Northern Cardinal is bright red, while the female is mostly dull brown.

Disease - A condition of being sick from a particular cause. Different plants and animals often suffer from certain diseases. Some animals are known to carry diseases that affect other organisms. For example, a beetle carries a fungus which causes Dutch Elm Disease in elm trees.

Disperse - To spread seeds or spores. Plants (seeds) and fungi (spores) need to spread to new areas. They rely on wind, water, or animals to carry their seeds (or spores) to new places.

Diurnal - Active during the day.

Domestic - Animals that are tamed and raised by humans. Dogs, cats, cows, horses, goats, and sheep are all examples of domestic animals.

Dominant - A plant, usually a tree, that becomes the largest and most common in an area over time. Trees such as oaks, hickories, and elms will eventually take over a forest in a particular area.

Drupe - A fleshy fruit with a single seed. Cherries, peaches, and plums are all drupes.

Edible - Able to use as a food by people for nutrients; not poisonous. Inedible means something that people can not gain nutrients from, or which may cause sickness when eaten.

Egg - The first stage of life for most animals. Most insects have four stages in their life cycle, and the first stage is the egg. Frogs change from eggs to tadpoles to adults. Birds hatch from eggs and grow into adulthood. So do reptiles. So do spiders.

Elytra - The hard outer wings of a beetle or other insect. Elytra help protect the insect.

Erosion - When soil and other items are washed away due to weather, including rain and wind. Erosion is a problem when there are no plant roots holding soil in place. When soil erodes, it slowly crumbles away, changing the way the land looks. Erosion can become a big problem for people and their property. Erosion also pollutes water in streams, rivers, and lakes.

Estivate - When an animal "hides out" in the Summer. The heat is too much for certain animals and they don't want to dry out, so they hide and slow down their bodies until it rains or becomes cooler. Estivation is the equivalent of hibernation in the Winter.

Evergreen - Describes a tree or plant that does not lose its leaves in the Fall or Winter. It stays green all year.

Excavate - To dig. Woodchucks excavate a den in the ground; woodpeckers excavate a cavity in a tree.

Exoskeleton - The supporting structure of an organism when it is on the outside of the body. Insects, crustaceans, and spiders all have exoskeletons. Birds, mammals, and reptiles have "endoskeletons," meaning they have bones on the inside.

Family - The fifth group that scientists classify living things into. Each order is split into families. Example: The Muridae Family is in the Rodent Order.

Fern - A plant that does not have flowers or seeds. Ferns have fronds (large type of leaf) and spores (a little bit like a seed, but works differently).

Fiddlehead - A young frond on a fern plant. Fiddleheads are tender when they first grow and are eaten by animals, including deer.

Field - A place of dense, shorter plants, including shrubs and grasses. Because hardly any trees grow in a field, plants that need a lot of sunlight are able to grow. A farmer's field has only the plants that the farmer wants to grow; a wild field, such as a meadow, has many different plants and animals.

Fin - Body parts of fish used to swim and steer. Dorsal fins are on the back, caudal fins are on the tail, anal fins are underneath towards the back, and pectoral fins are underneath towards the front. Fin size, shape, and color can be used to identify different fish species.

Fish - Cold-blooded, scaly animals from the Chordate Phylum. Fish live in water, breathe through gills, and move by swimming with fins. Most of them lay eggs in water. Some fish in our area include bass, bluegill, and catfish.

Fledge - When a baby bird first leaves the nest. A "fledgling" will often spend a day or two on the ground, practicing to run and fly. Fledglings are often attacked by predators.

Flock - A group of animals that live, travel, or feed together.

Flower - The part of a plant that helps it grow new plants. The flowers have nectar and pollen in them. The nectar attracts bees and other insects, because it is a good liquid food. The pollen is a powder that must get to another flower to pollinate it. If a bee drinks nectar from a flower, it usually gets pollen on its body. Then, when it visits another flower for the same kind of plant, it accidentally delivers pollen to it. Once this happens, the flower dies and a fruit grows there. Seeds inside the fruit fall out somewhere new and grow a new plant. Flowers often have bright colors to attract insects.

Forest - A large place of dense trees, plants, animals, and other organisms. Older forests have taller trees than younger forests.

Forest edge - The border of a forest and another area, such as a field, meadow, stream, marsh, or pond. Understory trees and shrubs grow taller here because they get more light. Many animals prefer to live at "edges."

Frond - The leaf of a fern. Fronds often have many parts (leaflets) and are feathery.

Fruit - The part of a plant that grows where a flower used to be, after the flower was pollinated and died. The fruit contains the seeds, which can grow new plants. Fruits are often fleshy with juices and nutrients for animals to eat. After animals eat the fruit, they poop the seeds out somewhere new, and the seeds can grow into new plants.

Fry - Baby fish.

Fungus - An organism in the Fungi Kingdom. Fungi are similar to plants, but they cannot make their own food like plants do. The Fungi Kingdom includes mushrooms, mold, and yeast. Many fungi are mycorrhizal, meaning they have a relationship with trees. In this relationship the fungus grows on tree roots. It takes nutrients from the roots, but it also delivers nutrients to the roots from the soil.

Furrow - A groove in the bark of a tree, making the trunk look somewhat "wrinkled." Furrows can be shallow or deep, narrow or wide, depending on the species.

Gall - A swollen part of a plant, because an insect larva (baby insect) is living inside it. Some species of wasps and flies inject their eggs into plant stems or leaves. The plant keeps growing, forming a ball-shaped gall around the egg. When the larva hatches, it eats its way out. Sometimes galls hurt the plant and sometimes they don't.

Garden - A piece of land where people grow flowers, vegetables, or other plants. Someone usually tries to keep certain plants in and others (weeds) out.

Generation - A group of offspring that are born together and live at the same time. Some insect species have more than one generation in a year. For example, a pair of ladybugs may give birth to one generation of thousands of young ladybugs. The first generation grows quickly and becomes adults. Those adults then mate with other ladybugs and give birth to a second generation in the same year.

Genus (more than one = genera) - The sixth group that scientists classify living things into. Each family is split into genera. Example: The Microtus Genus is in the Muridae Order.

Gill - 1. The organs that underwater creatures use to breathe. Fish, tadpoles, and some insects get their oxygen from water through their gills. 2. The feathery parts of a mushroom under the cap. Gills release spores.

Girdle - The act of removing a band of bark from around a tree trunk. Girdling kills the tree. Vines sometimes girdle a tree they grow on by wrapping around the tree trunk. Over time, the vine wears off the bark around the trunk.

Grass - A plant in the Grass Family (Poaceae). These are usually short plants with slender leaves. People grow different species of grasses for their lawns. Many animals eat the seeds and leaves. When allowed to grow wild, grasses get several feet tall.

Grub - Another name for beetle larva.



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