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Crazy Creatures - Glossary of scientific animal terms
Category: Animals and Nature > Glossary of scientific animal terms
Date & country: 15/11/2010, UK
Words: 67


Altricial
describes creatures that are born unable to fend for themselves as opposed to Precocial animals. Generally altricial refers to animals that are born with closed eyes and lack fur or feathers. Many birds are altricial, as are Carnivorous Mammals, like Cheetah.

Amphibian
describes animals that generally transition from water to land in their development, i.e. from tadpoles to frogs.

Antlers
are a pair of branched bony protrusions from an animal`s skull that are shed annually (yearly) and differ from Horns.

Aposematic
colourings are used to scare away Predators, e.g. strong colours on frogs.Poisonous Dart Frog

Arboreal
animals generally live in trees, for example many monkeys.

Arthropods
are Invertebrates that have an external skeleton instead of an internal skeleton. Common members of this group are the Insects, Arachnids (Spiders) and Centipedes and Millipedes.

Autotomous
animals can sacrifice and occasionally regenerate part of their body to escape prey, for example lizards losing a tail.

Browsers
are creatures that mostly eat leaves, like Giraffe.

Carnivores
are meat eating animals.

Commensalism
is a form of Symbiosis. A relationship between two organisms where one benefits and the other suffers no harm, like birds using trees as a place for a nest.

Competition
often exists between species, generally over food or territory. Usually one species will benefit, while the other is disadvantaged.

Crepuscular
describes animals that are active during dawn and/or dusk (i.e. around sunrise and sunset), as opposed to Nocturnal or Diurnal.

Cytotoxic Venom
attacks the cellular tissue, often starting as a red bump and slowly deteriorating. Snakes and spiders are some of the animals capable of injecting this venom.

Digitigrade
describes a foot posture where the heel and instep are raised so only the digits touch the ground. Common in predators like cats and dogs, enabling them to move quietly. Plantigrade and Unguligrade are other postures.

Diurnal
describes animals that are active during daylight, as opposed to Crepuscular or Nocturnal.

Dung Midden
is a pile of dung that animals re-use over a period of time, and are used as a territorial marker. For example by Rhinos or Civets (Known specifically as a Civetrine).

Ectothermic
animals are those that use external influences to control their body temperature. This is notable in Reptiles.

Endemic
species are those that exist only within a particular area. For example endemic to South America or to Madagascar.

Endothermic
animals are those that can control their body temperature themselves. For example by metabolising food they can generate heat. This is most common in Mammals and birds.

Exotic
species are those that have been introduced to an area where they don`t naturally occur. For example rabbits in Australia.

Frugivore
is an animal that prefers to eat fruit.

Gestation
period refers to the time an animal (Fetus) is developing inside the body of their mother.

Grazers
are animals that each ground based vegetation, mainly grass. Zebras and Hippos are Bulk Grazers, and eat any type of vegetation, whereas Wildebeest and Warthog are Selective Grazers eating specific types of vegetation.

Gregarious
is a term often used to refer to social animals that enjoy living in a group and the companionship of others.

Haemotoxic Venom
prevents the blood from clotting, resulting in continuous bleeding. Snakes are capable of injecting this venom.

Herbivores
are animals that eat plants.

Hindgut Fermenters
are Ungulate animals where food is completely digested in the stomach. This is a less efficient digestive system than in Ruminants, so animals have to eat far more, and are therefore much larger. These include Zebra, Hippos and Elephants.

Horns
are a pair of protrusions from an animal`s skull that permanent. They are bony with a keratin outer layer. Horns are different to Antlers.

Insectivores
are creatures that feed mostly on Insects.

Invertebrates
are animals without a backbone and may or may not have an external skeleton. Insects are invertebrates.

Litter
is the offspring from the same parents. This term is generally used for Mammals. The offspring of birds is usually referred to as a Brood which have hatched from a Clutch of eggs.

Mammals
are characterised by a number of attributes including having mammary glands (boobs!), hairy bodies, external ears and are Endothermic. Humans are mammals, as are Elephants and Mice.

Marsupial Mammals
are characterised by having an abdominal pouch in which they rear their young, for example Kangaroos and the Marsupial Mole.

Migrating animals
are those that move seasonally due to variations in weather or food availability. Examples are birds travelling south for the winter, or Wildebeest looking for fresh pastures.Ash Borer Moth, Wasp Mimic

Mimicry
describes the ability of an animal to pretend it is another. This can be for defensive reasons, for example the False Cobra which is harmless but appears and behaves similarly to a genuine cobra. Mimicry can also be used offensively, for example by predators that look like their prey. Animals can mimic vocally as well, for example the Fork-Tailed Drongo can mimic it`s predators to confuse them.

Mixed Feeders
are animals that will graze or browse, eating a wide variety of vegetation. Examples are Elephants and Impala.

Monogamy
describes animals that only have one partner. This is particularly common in birds.

Monotremes
are the most primitive Mammals and are egg-laying. The Duck-Billed Platypus is a famous example.

Mutualism
is a form of Symbiosis. A relationship between two organisms where both benefit, like bees pollinating flowers while they gain nectar.

Neurotoxic Venom
attacks the nervous system potentially leading to paralysis and difficulties with breathing. Snakes, scorpions and spiders are some of the animals capable of injecting this venom.

Nocturnal
describes animals that are active during the night, like owls, as opposed to Crepuscular or Diurnal.

Non-Passerine
are birds that aren`t Passerines and generally have feet designed for specific functions, like webbed feet for swimming or feet for grabbing prey.

Omnivores
are animals that can eat pretty much anything. Examples are Humans, Baboons and Jackals.

Oviparous
animals are those that lay eggs, and where the young develop inside an egg. This is the most common reproductive method and occurs in birds, Reptiles, Insects, fish and others. Viviparous and Ovoviviparous are the other methods.

Ovoviviparous
animals are those where the young develop inside an egg, but the egg remains inside the mother until it hatches. This occurs in some fish, sharks and Reptiles. Viviparous and Oviparous are the other reproductive methods.

Parasitism
is a form of Symbiosis. A relationship between two organisms where one benefits at the expense of the other, like a tick sucking blood from another animal.

Passerine
is a bird classification, describing birds that have feet suited to perching. All passerines are small to medium sized birds such as swallows. Other birds are classified as Non-Passerines.

Piscivores
eat mainly fish, for example Otters.

Placental Mammals
have a placenta allowing the young to remain in the body of the mother and develop further before being born. Most mammals are placental.

Plantigrade
foot posture involves walking on the whole length of the foot, for example in human, monkeys and bears. Digitigrade and Unguligrade are other postures.

Poison
in this context is a Toxin that can be absorbed through the skin, and are generally administered passively when touched or eaten, i.e. aren`t used to attack, more as a defensive mechanism. The Puffer Fish is an example of a poisonous creature.

Polygamy
describes animals that have multiple mates. Polygynous describes one male mating with multiple females and the females will often do most of the parental care, for example in Lions. A rarer form is Polyandry and describes a female mating with multiple males who generally undertake the parental care, for example in Honeybees.Altricial Chicks

Precocial
creatures that are born ready to go as opposed to Altricial creatures, and can pretty much fend for themselves. Many prey are precocial, as they need to be able to run from predators as soon as they are born, for example Zebra.

Predation
describes the interaction between a predator and its prey, for example a lion (the predator) attacking and killing a zebra (the lion`s prey).

Preening
is a common activity by animals to clean their fur or feathers, removing dirt and parasites. Particularly important in birds to keep their feathers in good order.

Reptiles
are characterised by a number of attributes including, most obviously, their dry skin usually in the form of scales or plates. They are also Ectothermic which means they use their environment to regulate their body temperature as they cannot generate body heat by metabolising food like Mammals. Crocodiles, Lizards and Snakes are examples of Reptiles.

Ruminants
are Ungulate Mammals where food is digested through a series of stomach chambers, the rumen where it is fermented and regurgitated to be chewed further (Chewing the Cud) before entering the reticulum, omasum and the fourth stomach chamber, the abomasum. This system allows animals to get the maximum nutrients out of the vegetation. Ruminants include Antelope, Buffalo and Giraffe. Other ungulates ar...

Sexual Dimorphism
describes the varying difference between males and females. In some animals males and females are very similar so show little dimorphism, for example Elephants. Others, for example Peacocks are very dimorphic.

Siblicide
is where a young animal kills its brother or sister (sibling). This often occurs in birds where the stronger one kills the weaker one to avoid competition.

Symbiosis
involves the relationship between two species that results in positive or negative consequences for at least one of the species. For example a clownfish living within an anemone (Think Nemo!) which protects it from predators. These relationships can be categorised as Commensal, Mutualistic or Parasitic.Tapetum Lucidum

Tapetum Lucidum
is a layer of tissue at the back of the eye used to see in low light conditions. It reflects light back through the retina so that it can build a better picture. Common in Nocturnal animals which is why they see well at night and why their eyes reflect light in the night, for example in cats.

Taxonomy
is the process of naming and classifying organisms, so that there is a formal system recognising the diversity of life on earth. Read more about this here.

Thanatosis
is a form of protective behaviour where the creature pretends to be dead. Many Predators only eat live prey and will walk away. A wide variety of creatures use this behaviour to avoid predation.

Toxin
describes a poisonous substance produced by a living organism. A toxic animal can either be Venomous or Poisonous depending on how they deliver the toxin.

Unguligrade
describes a foot posture where the animal stands only on their toes, which have evolved large nails or hooves. This is particularly suited to running, and occurs in animals such as zebra and giraffe. Other postures are Digitigrade and Plantigrade.

Venom
is a Toxin that is injected into another creature, for example using fangs or stings.

Viviparous
animals are those where the young develop inside the body of the mother, as opposed to in an egg – see Oviparous and Ovoviviparous. Mammals are the most common creatures to behave this way.