San Diego Zoo Glossary of Terms

0-9  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  

[Back to Top]
To adjust to new conditions or surroundings, sometimes over time or several generations.

Living or spending time in the air.

Aerial roots
Any root exposed to the air.

An unprovoked attack made by an animal/The tendency for an animal to attack.

Alarm signal
A communication made by animals to alert others to the presence of a predator or a potential predator. May be visual, vocal, olfactory, etc.

An animal or plant that has less pigment than normal. An albino animal usually has skin that appears white or transparent; white or nearly colorless hair, feathers, or scales; and pink or blue eyes with a deep-red pupil. An albino plant has less of the chemicals that give plants their normal colors.

Organisms that occur in most habitats, from marine and freshwater to desert sands, and from hot springs to snow. They vary from small, single-celled forms to complex multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps. Algae are important as primary producers of organic matter at the base of the food chain. They also provide oxygen for other aquatic life.

Alpha male or female
The strongest male or female of a species in a small geographic area.

Helpless at birth, requiring complete parental care. This term is used to describe some bird species, such as parrots, that need time to grow their feathers and gain strength in their wings to fly.

A method of attack. The attacker hides from its prey until the prey gets close enough to attack, surprising the prey. Tigers, pythons, and rattlesnakes are examples of ambush hunters.

A cold-blooded animal that lives both on land and in water and is able to breathe through its skin as well as, or instead of, through its lungs. Frogs and salamanders are amphibians.

The structure of an organism or of its parts.

Any living thing that is not a plant. Most animals can move about freely. All use plants or other animals as food. All have sensory organs.

Animal Kingdom
Every animal (from butterflies to basset hounds to black bears to you) belongs to this scientific grouping.

A long, thin feeler on the head of an insect, spider, or crustacean. Antennae (two or more antenna) are used as sensing organs, usually for touch.

To refer to animal behavior in terms of human behavior.

An antitoxic serum used in the treatment of snakebites.

Growths on the head of a deer that shed every year and are made of bone-like material.

Able to live in water, as a fish or turtle.

Able to live in trees, like a parrot or iguana.

Artificial insemination
The introduction of sperm into the female reproductive tract by other than natural means.

Scientific order of even-toed ungulates, such as antelope and goats.

Referring to birds.

[Back to Top]
Bachelor herd
A group of non-breeding males of the same species that forms its own herd away from the main herd that contains the females.

The column of bones (spine) in the back of many animals. It supports the body. An animal with a backbone is called a vertebrate.

Very tiny plants. Bacteria are so small that they can only be seen through a microscope. Some kinds of bacteria cause disease. Others do useful things, like making soil richer.

The hard mouthpart of a bird and some other animals. The beak can also be called a "bill."

In biology, an organism's activity in response to its environment. The study of animal behavior is called ethology.

Binocular vision
Two-eyed vision that allows animals to judge distance.

An item that can readily decompose, or break down, by natural biological processes.

Having many different life forms within a given area.

Someone who studies life and living things.

The study of life and living things. Biology deals with how plants and animals live and grow, how they are made, and where they are found.

The portion of the Earth in which living systems occur.

Bipedal locomotion
Literally, moving on two feet. Usually refers to walking or running on the hind legs.

An animal that has wings and is covered with feathers. Birds have a backbone, are warm-blooded, produce young from eggs, and walk on their two legs. Most can fly.

Bird of prey
A bird that hunts and eats meat; also known as a raptor. Birds of prey use their talons to catch their food and their strong, curved beaks for tearing food into bite-sized pieces. Falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls are birds of prey.

The beginning of an animal's life.

The early stage in the development of the mammalian embryo (often the point at which development is arrested in delayed implantation).

A long, narrow pipe through which darts or pellets may be blown.

A thick layer of fat that whales, sea lions, polar bears, and other marine mammals have. Blubber helps to keep the animal warm.

Body language
The gestures, movements, and mannerisms by which both humans and many animals communicate with others.

The study of plants./One who studies plants.

To move by swinging arms from one hold to another. Monkeys use brachiation to move from branch to branch.

Verb-To eat shoots, twigs, and leaves of trees and shrubs. A giraffe uses its long tongue to browse on leaves high up in trees. Noun-Leafy plant material animals eat.

Noun-A hole in the ground made by certain animals, like rabbits.Verb-To dig a hole in the ground.

Wild animals that are killed by people for food.

[Back to Top]
The color or pattern of an animal's covering that is similar to the animal's surroundings, and therefore helps hide it. May also be related to smell, as in lions rolling in elephant dung to camouflage their scent.

An animal taxonomic group that includes dogs, wolves, foxes, and jackals.

Canine teeth
In mammals, the teeth next to the incisors that are used for holding prey and/or tearing meat.

The second-highest, spreading, branchy layer of trees in a rain forest.

Captive propagation
The encouragement of breeding and reproduction among animals (particularly endangered ones) in a protected, captive setting for conservation purposes.

The maintenance of animals not in the free, wild state.

The shell covering the back (top) of a turtle, crab, or other animal.

A dead body. Tasmanian devils and vultures are some of the many animals that feed on a carcass.

A meat-eating animal; one who eats the flesh of other animals.

Carnivore diet
Carnivore diet consists mostly of ground beef and beef heart. It also contains additional amino acids, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. 61.8 tons of carnivore diet are used in one year at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park!

The remains of a dead animal that is then eaten by other animals, such as vultures and hyenas.

An enlargement of the back surface of the upper bill of a hornbill bird.

Referring to the tail.

A small, low island or emergent reef of sand or coral.

The tiny, basic unit of all living matter.

A turtle or tortoise.

Located in the nucleus of each cell of an organism, these structures carry the genes, or genetic information, of the individual.

A protective covering for an insect pupa or for the pupa of a butterfly.

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna)
An agreement between more than 85 countries that protects wild species, alive or dead, from being exported or imported. Anyone who violates the laws of this agreement faces severe penalties, including fines or jail time.

The "fingernails" of an animal, such as a bear or cat. They help to grab prey. In birds, they're called "talons."

A body opening that serves both for excretion and for the reproductive organs in reptiles, amphibians, and birds, as well as many fish and some invertebrates.

The number of eggs produced or incubated at one time by an animal.

A silky covering spun by the larvae of many insects, such as silkworms, that protects them while they are in the pupal stage.

An animal whose body temperature changes with the temperature of the air or water around it, as a turtle or fish.

A group of the same kind of animal species living together.

Milk fluid of mammals formed during the first few days after giving birth. It is particularly rich in proteins, including antibodies.

To exchange information using symbols, signs, actions, or vocal sounds/The act of exchanging information.

A group of living things that are generally found together within an ecosystem.

A situation that occurs when living things occupying the same area need the same resources for survival.

A mix of decaying plants and other organic matter added to soil in order to enrich the soil for planting.

Training an animal to accept a certain pattern of behavior.

A cone-producing tree or shrub with needle-like leaves.

The wise use, care, and protection of natural resources, including plants and animals.

Of the same species.

To squeeze.

A snake that kills its prey by grabbing the animal and quickly wrapping two or three coils around it. The force of constriction (squeezing) prevents the prey from breathing, and it usually dies within seconds. The snake can then relax its grip and swallow

One that uses economic goods. For example, humans are consumers of coffee, seafood, and forest products such as wood. Also, an organism that gets its food by eating other organisms or parts of organic matter.

Contour feathers
The shorter feathers of a bird (not on the wings or tail) that define the bird's shape.

All behavioral patterns leading to breeding or pair formation.

Active mainly at dawn and dusk.

In many birds and insects, the enlarged part of the esophagus between the mouth and the stomach where food is stored before going to the stomach.

An animal that has a hard shell and lives in water. Crustaceans have hinged legs and bodies. Shrimps, crabs, and lobsters are all crustaceans.

Cryptic coloration
A pattern of colors that makes an animal hard to see. It may be a pattern that is similar to the background on which the animal lives, or one that seems to break up the animal's outline (also called "disruptive coloration"). The snake in this image is a good example of cryptic coloration.

The portion of food that is brought up into the mouth of a ruminating animal from its stomach. Cows, goats, and giraffes are some of the many animals that chew cud.

Having limbs adapted for running.

[Back to Top]
Trees that lose their leaves each year.

An organism (including bacteria, fungi, and some insects) that breaks down nonliving plants and animals into nutrients used by plants.

An organism that eats dead plants and animals. A decomposer may also eat the waste of other organisms. Decomposers are very important for any ecosystem, providing plants with essential nutrients, and keeping dead matter and waste from piling up.

The process of destroying forest habitat(s).

The home or dwelling of an animal, usually in the ground, a tree hollow, or a cave.

An area with little rain and often with hot daytime temperatures.

Loose skin on the lower neck of animals such as eland, rabbits, and iguanas.

The food an animal eats.

Walking on the toes, or digits (such as elephants and rhinos).

The differences in form, color, or structure between animals (or plants) of the same species.

To scatter or spread widely, as in dispersing seeds.

Disruptive coloration
The particular way an animal's pattern of color and shading is arranged so that its size and shape appear to be different than its actual size and shape. See also "cryptic coloration."

Awake and active during the day, asleep at night.

Describing an animal kept by people as a pet, for work, or other reasons. Sheep and goats found on farms are domestic, those found in the wild are not.

Having the most influence, usually in herd, group, or pack animals.

Referring to features on the back or along the spine of the animal.

Double clutching
Removing newly-laid egg(s) from a nest, sometimes causing the female to lay replacement eggs.

Soft feathers that provide insulation for birds.

The dung, or fecal matter, of animals.

An extended time when little or no rain falls, causing a water shortage for plants and animals.

[Back to Top]
A means by which bats and certain other animals can find their way, find food, or avoid obstacles by emitting a series of sounds, often inaudible to humans, which echo back from an object and are received by the ear.

The study of animals, plants, and their environment (the world around them).

All living things depending on one another to survive in a certain area.

Ecologically-sensitive travel that combines the pleasures of discovering and understanding flora and fauna with opportunities to contribute to their protection.

A cold-blooded animal; that is, an animal whose body temperature varies with the temperature of its surroundings. Ectotherms cannot produce their own body heat./To be an ectotherm.

Egg tooth
A hard, sharp prominence on the tip of the beak of baby birds and reptiles with which they break through the eggshell.

Emergent layer
Widely scattered tall trees that break through the canopy of a tropical rain forest.

A space in a zoo where animals live and are cared for.

Animals or plants that survive in such low numbers that they could become extinct in a few years unless something is done to help the populations increase.

A warm-blooded animal; that is, an animal that maintains its body temperature at a relatively constant level regardless of the temperature of the environment.

Enrichment is an important part of animal care. It is made up of the many ways in which keepers provide zoo animals with opportunities to do something with their time, giving the animal mental stimulation and physical exercise. Enrichment also gives animals choices and some control over their environment.

Everything that surrounds an animal or other living thing. For example, a pond is a frog's environment.

Environmental indicator species
An animal or plant that is monitored to determine the health of an entire ecosystem.

Soil being washed away, usually by wind or water and after vegetation has been removed.

A sleepy or dormant state caused by hot, dry, summer conditions.

Estrus (cycle)
The rhythmic changes in the mammalian female that enable her to become pregnant.

An exact catalog of all behavior patterns occurring in a species, including the vocal patterns.

The science and study of animal behavior.

Liquid water turning into gas vapor.

A very slow growth or change.

Ex situ
In captivity.

Meaning "outside skeleton," it refers to certain animals' hard outer bodies. For example, many insects have a hard skin called an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton does not grow; it must be molted. Crabs, lobsters, and tarantulas have exoskeletons too.

Foreign to a particular place, from another part of the world; not indigenous.

No longer existing. For example, dinosaurs are extinct./The process of becoming extinct.

Refers to a species that is extinct in a certain area. For example, the elk was extirpated from Wisconsin in the late 1800s.

[Back to Top]
Facial disc
An area of very short feathers that radiate out from the eyes like the spokes of a wheel. This special feather arrangement helps send sound to the birds ears. All owls have a facial disc.

All the animals in a particular place or period of time.

Waste matter discharged from the intestines. Also called excrement, scat, or droppings.

Any member of the cat family. House cats, tigers, and lynx are all felines.

Domestic animals that have escaped and reverted to a wild (untamed) state.

Flagship species
A species that is popular with humans that can be the focus for conservation efforts. The giant panda is an example of a flagship species for bamboo forest habitat.

Verb: The time when a young bird's feathers have grown enough to help the bird take its first flight. Noun: A young bird that has just fledged.

Flight feathers
Feathers on a bird's tail or wings that help it to fly. Usually, flight feathers are longer and more rigid than contour feathers.

A broad, flat limb that helps a marine mammal, such as a sea lion or dolphin, swim.

A group of birds or mammals. For example: a flock of sheep; a flock of ducks

All the plants in a particular place or period of time.

Concerned with or relating to flowers.

Food chain
A model that shows how plants and animals are linked together because each one eats or is eaten by another.

Food for animals, usually grasses or leaves, or to look for food; searching for food.

An area with many trees.

Forest floor
The ground layer of a rain forest.

Adapted for burrowing or digging.

Fruit-eater. The ring-tailed lemur is a frugivore.

[Back to Top]
A functional hereditary unit that occupies a fixed location on a chromosome and has a specific influence on heredity factors.

Genetic diversity
The total variety of hereditary characters found in a breeding population. Generally, the more unrelated animals in a breeding group, the greater will be the genetic diversity and the resulting viability of the herd as a whole.

The study of heredity; how characteristics are passed from parents to offspring.

A taxonomic concept used to group a number of species believed to be more closely related to one another than to any others; ranked between family and species.

Gestation period
The length of time for carrying the young in the womb. For example, a human has a gestation period of 9 months, cats and dogs have a gestation period of 63 days.

A body part that helps an animal get oxygen from water. Fish and many types of salamanders, newts, and caecilians have gills.

An enlargement of the alimentary canal in birds that serves to grind the food before it reaches the stomach.

Global warming
An increase in the average temperature of the Earths atmosphere and oceans over time. This increase can cause changes in the Earths climate that can affect habitats and the plants and animals that live in them.

An animal that eats grain or seeds.

An area with grass and very few trees.

A pregnant animal.

To eat grasses and other ground-level plants.

A behavior seen primarily among primates in which individuals use their fingers and sometimes their teeth to comb through the fur of another individual. Not only does this activity help to maintain healthy fur and skin, but also promotes friendly communication among individuals, soothes emotions, and helps to establish bonds within the group. Other animals like birds and cats groom themselves as well.

Water lying below the Earth's surface in springs and natural reservoirs.

Guard hairs
The longer, stiffer hairs that grow up through the shorter, usually woolly hairs of a mammal's coat.

[Back to Top]
Where an animal or plant normally lives and grows.

A group of females under continual control of a single male.

A process in which young animals are raised by humans in a safe environment until they are large enough to defend themselves successfully in the wild.

An animal that feeds only on plants (herbs, grasses, and vegetables).

A group of animals that travels and feeds together.

The study of reptiles and amphibians./One who studies reptile and amphibians.

To sleep or be in a dormant state during the winter season. Hibernation is caused by cold, winter conditions.

The rank of an animal within its group. For example, a wolf pack has a hierarchy with the strongest and cleverest wolves being the leaders, and the younger, inexperienced wolves having to follow along.

The theory that whole entities are more than the sum of their parts.

Home range
The area over which an organism travels to obtain its food.

Growths on the head of an antelope, cow, sheep, or goat that are never shed.

The practice of growing and cultivating plants, especially in a garden, nursery, greenhouse, or botanical garden like the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park.

In biology, a host organism is one that provides sustenance to one or more parasitic organisms.

An area of instability or potential danger. A conservation hotspot is a geographical location where plants and/or animals are in danger of becoming extinct.

The daily care of animals.

[Back to Top]
A procedure where a veterinarian uses special drugs to anesthetize an animal so a closer look can be taken in a medical exam.

A species that is at risk of dying out.

A rapid learning process that takes place early in the life of a social animal, usually in the bird family, and establishes a behavior pattern involving recognition of and attraction to identifiable attributes of its own kind or of a substitute.

In situ
In the natural, or wild, location.

Reproduction by the mating of closely related individuals.

The process of keeping eggs warm in order to hatch them.

Naturally occurring in a particular place (area or country).

A small animal without a backbone. Its body is divided into three parts. Insects have three pairs of legs and usually two pairs of wings. Flies, ants, grasshoppers, and beetles are a few of the many kinds of insects.

An animal that eats insects. The tenrec is an insectivore.

A way of acting or behaving that an animal is born with and does not have to learn. For example, birds build their nests by using their instinct.

A guide who shares interesting information about animals, plants, and more to a group of visitors.

Interpretive signs
Signs in zoos for visitors that help explain a plant, animal, or idea.

Introduced species
An animal that moves into a new area on its own, or with human help, and remains to live in the area.

An animal that has no backbone. Insects, worms, and lobsters are invertebrates.

[Back to Top]
A forest that has many trees and plants growing very close to one another, usually found near the equator in areas with high humidity and heavy rainfall.

A young animal either still cared for by adults or able to care for itself, but not sexually mature or of adult size or status.

[Back to Top]
An employee in a zoo who takes care of the animals.

A protein that hair, nails, skin, and horns are made of.

Knuckle walk
A way of walking some great apes use to get around. They curl up their fingers and using the knuckles of their hands as feet. Gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees often use this method to walk across the ground.

[Back to Top]
Having no direct access to the sea.

The immature, wingless, feeding stage of an insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis. Larvae is two or more larva.

Leaf eater biscuit
A biscuit fed to zoo animals that typically eat leaves as part of their diet. The biscuits contain soybean meal and hulls, cornmeal, corn, apple fiber, sugar beet pulp, flaxseed oil, and several vitamins and minerals. They come in two sizes: gorilla size and lemur size.

An area where males of one species gather to attract and breed with females of the same species. Can also be a group of males, such as a lek of hummingbirds, that band together to get the females' attention.

Life cycle
A series of stages in an organism's life including birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

Two or more young born to the same mother at the same time. This red river hog mother rests with her litter of piglets. Littermate is a sibling in the same litter.

Animals that are kept or raised for a specific purpose. For example, a flock of sheep raised for their wool would be called livestock.

Animal that has a long, scaly body, four legs (usually), and a long tail. It is cold-blooded and has a backbone.

The length of time something lives or lasts.

[Back to Top]
A warm-blooded animal with a backbone that breathes air, and has at least some hair at some point during its life. The females have glands that produce milk, which they feed to their young.

Long, heavy hair that grows around the neck and head of some mammals, such as horses and male lions.

Able to live in salt water, as ocean fish, whales or polar bears.

A type of mammal that develops in a pouch.

Matriarchal society
A group of animals that is controlled by a dominant female, such as elephants.

The black or dark color form of an organism.

The changes in shape and abilities that certain animals go through as they grow from young animals to adults. Caterpillars become butterflies through metamorphosis.

To move/the seasonal movement of animals from one place of residence to another.

Milk tooth
A temporary tooth of a mammal.

A harmless and edible animal that is mistaken for an inedible, poisonous, or venomous animal due to its imitative color or pattern.

To shed portions of the skin, feather, or hair.

Having just one mating partner and usually staying with that partner until death.

A type of mammal that lays eggs. The echidna and duck-billed platypus are the only two mammal species in the monotreme classification.

A geographic zone made up of moist, cool upland slopes below the timberline that has large evergreen trees as a dominant life form.

Mouse House
Below is the recipe for the Mouse House, which is made for the Children's Zoo in one of the San Diego Zoo's restaurants. (Warning: this recipe makes a BIG house!)

1 quart water

1 cake fresh yeast

4 pounds wheat flour

4 ounces sugar (1/2 cup)

1 ounce salt (1/8 cup)

5 ounces vegetable shortening (2/3 cup)

Mix the ingredients well to make a dough. Let the dough sit for awhile to rise, until it's puffing up toward the top of the bowl. Then punch it down by kneading it some with your hands. Leave it to rise up one more time. Put the risen dough into a large, greased square pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, then reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees and bake for another hour. You can make a smaller loaf by reducing the amount of each of the ingredients by one-fourth.

[Back to Top]
Native species
An animal that has always lived in a certain area and is naturally found there.

Natural resources
Materials found in nature that are used by people, such as sunshine, water, air, soil, minerals, forests, and wildlife.

The neck-swinging behavior seen between male giraffes, usually as part of dominance and courtship rituals.

The sugary fluid produced by many flowers and ingested by many insects, some birds, and a few mammals.

Having a distribution including Central and South America.

New World
Animals native to Central and South America. For example, New World monkeys are those found in Central and South America.

An animal's role within its habitat.

Nictitating membrane
An inner, third eyelid present in many land animals. Some can slide this across the eye (from the inner corner) to clean or protect the eyeball.

Awake and active during the night, asleep during the day.

An animal that roams from place to place, never staying in one area very long.

Natural resources that do not replenish themselves readily.

[Back to Top]
Old World
Animals from Asia and Africa. For example, Old World monkeys are those native to Asia or Africa.

The sense of smell.

An animal that eats all kinds of foods, both plants and animals.

Opposable thumb/toe
The first digit can be moved so that it can touch each of the other digits. It is used to grasp items.

Something that is raised or grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or drugs.

Anything that is alive.

Ornamental plumage
On a bird, colorful feathers that do not blend into the surrounding environment as camouflage. These colors are often used to attract a mate.

Hair-covered horns found on the heads of giraffes. Ossicones are made of bone and are part of the skull.

Producing eggs that develop and hatch outside the body.

Producing young from eggs that hatch inside the body. Some snakes, such as the common boa, give birth this way.

[Back to Top]
Meaning "thick skin," this term usually refers to elephants, but can also apply to hippos.

Front and rear feet taking a step simultaneously on the same side of the body.

An organism that lives in, on, or with another animal (called a host), getting what it needs to survive from that host.

The coat of a mammal, such as its wool, fur, or hair.

Perennial plant
A plant that renews its top growth seasonally, living for an indefinite number of years.

A plant or animal that humans believe to be harmful or annoying.

A chemical used to kill insects.

The process by which green plants utilize sunlight to make food from carbon dioxide and water.

To remove or bind the wing feathers of a bird to prevent flight.

An animal classification order, from the Latin words meaning "feather feet," as all pinnipeds have four flippers. Seals, sea lions, and walrus belong in this classification.


Tiny organisms that float or weakly swim in the ocean.

Any living thing that is not an animal. Plants live on sunlight and water instead of food. Plants generally cannot move on their own, and are not able to smell, hear, see, or touch.

A way of walking on the soles of the feet, including the heels. Examples of animals that walk this way are bears and humans.

The shell covering the underside (bottom) of a turtle or other animal.

The illegal hunting or taking of wildlife out of its natural habitat/One who illegally hunts or takes wildlife out of its natural habitat for personal gain.

Fine, powdery, yellowish grains that are the fertilizing element of flowering plants.

An animal, such as an insect or bird, that picks up pollen from a flower when it lands or feeds on the flower, and then deposits it on another flower when it stops to land or feed again.

Harmful substances deposited in the air, water, or on land, leading to a state of dirtiness, impurity, or unhealthiness.

Having more than one mate at a single time.

The number of a kind of animal that lives in a place. For example, San Francisco has a big seagull population; New York City has a population of several million people.

Population density
The number of persons who inhabit a unit area (usually per square mile).

Population growth
The increase in the number of people (births over deaths) in a given area.

Young that are born or hatched fully able to care for themselves. Baby chickens are precocial.

An animal that hunts and kills other animals for its food.

In birds, to clean, trim, and smooth feathers with the beak or bill.

Refers to a body part that can be used like a hand for grasping or holding.

An area restricted for the protection and preservation of animals, plants, or other natural resources.

Noun: An animal that is hunted as food by another animal. Verb: To attempt to take an animal for food.

Members of the most highly developed order of animals, including humans, monkeys, and apes.

Organisms, such as plants, which are food sources for other organisms.

Established procedures or rules for certain activities. For example, there are strict protocols for keepers when they work with monkeys.

Parrots and their relatives.

The stage between the larva and the adult in animals that have complete metamorphosis.

[Back to Top]
A small rectangular plot laid off, as in a forest, range, pasture, or cultivated field, for the study of vegetation or animals. Also called a quadrant.

To isolate for the purpose of preventing the spread of contagious diseases.

A hollow, sharp spine, made of modified hair, found on the backs of animals such as porcupines, hedgehogs, and echidnas. The hollow shaft of a feather, or a type of feather.

[Back to Top]
A viral disease that affects the nervous system in mammal. It can lead to paralysis and death. Rabies is spread from the bite of one mammal to another.

Rain forest
A woodland that receives more than 100 inches (250 centimeters) of rain each year. Tropical rain forests are known for warm temperatures, and have evergreen trees that form a dense, continuous canopy. Temperate rain forests have evergreen and deciduous trees, with temperatures that vary greatly with the season.

In biology, the total area in which an individual or species can be found.

A bird that hunts and eats meat; also known as "bird of prey." Raptors use their talons to catch their food and their strong, curved beaks for tearing food into bite-sized pieces. Falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls are raptors.

A species that has small populations, so that even a slight decrease in numbers could cause extinction.

To reuse an item instead of just throwing it away. For example, soda cans can be recycled to make new soda cans.

Formed or created again.

To bring up food that is partly digested. Many bird species feed their young with food they have swallowed and then regurgitated. The regurgitated food is easier for the chick to swallow than whole food would be.

To care for an animal until it is in good health again and can be released to its natural habitat.

To release a captive animal back into its native habitat in the wild.

Resources that have the capacity to replenish themselves within a human's lifespan.

To send an animal back into the same wild area its ancestors came from.

To have offspring or babies.

Reproductive potential
The ability of an animal to reproduce given ideal conditions, such as good health and a safe environment.

A cold-blooded, air-breathing animal that has a backbone. Reptiles have dry, scaly skin. They move by either creeping on short legs or crawling on their bellies. Most reproduce by laying eggs.

This word means "looks like a net," and is used to describe the pattern on the skin of some animals. For example, there are reticulated giraffes and reticulated pythons.

Cats (except cheetahs) and fossas have the ability to pull in, or retract, their claws when not in use.

Community of plants and animals found along waterways.

Generally, a small mammal with soft fur. Rodents have large front teeth (incisors) that never stop growing. Rodents are mammals. Guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rates, and squirrels are all rodents.

A place where flying birds and bats rest or sleep, or where a bird builds its nest.

Having a multi-chambered stomach. Cows and goats are examples of ruminants.

Runner babies
Animal offspring that stay with their mothers all the time, as opposed to hiding in a secure place while their mothers search for food (see tucker babies). Giraffes and zebras are runner babies.

[Back to Top]
A place of refuge for animals where predatory animals may be controlled and hunting is not allowed.

An animal that drinks blood.

An animal that eats lizards.

In tropical or subtropical areas, a flat, mostly open, grassland with a few scattered trees.

A hard, flat, armor-like structure that covers the bodies of snakes, reptiles, fish, and the feet of birds.

An animal's fecal droppings.

An animal that eats the remains of animals killed by others or animals that died of natural causes./To search for food left behind by others or to feed on such food.

Seasonal color change
The change that occurs in the color of a mammal's fur or a bird's feathers as winter or summer comes. For example, arctic foxes have white fur in the winter and brown fur in the summer.

Body parts that receive messages and send them to the brain; the eyes, ears, skin, nose, and tongue are sensory organs.

Sexual dimorphism
A difference in appearance between males and females of the same species, such as horns, color, or size.

A method of movement used by some snakes for traveling across loose surfaces such as sand.

Slash-and-burn agriculture
The method of agriculture in which people clear land by cutting down patches of the forest and burning the debris.

An animal with a long, scaly body and no arms, legs, or wings. Snakes have backbones and are cold-blooded.

Social/social skills
Refers to animals that live in groups or communities./Skills animals learn that help them live successfully in groups.

Living alone or with only one other animal, usually a mate, not in colonies or groups.

When two animals fight each other.

A group of individuals that have many of the same characteristics, and are different from all other animals in some important way. Hamsters and mice are two different species of rodent.

Species Survival Plan (SSP)
A cooperative population management and conservation program for selected species at North American zoos and aquariums. Each SSP carefully manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

A small, cold-blooded animal with eight legs. A spider's body is made up of two parts. It has no wings and no backbone. Many spiders spin webs to catch insects for food.

A stiff, sharp projection on an animal; another word for quill.

To creep silently and slowly towards something without being seen.

A group of frightened animals running together to get away from danger. A herd of wildebeest might stampede to escape from a cheetah.

Information about an animal species, including a listing of every individual animal of that species, its parents, date of birth, and current location in an animal facility. Studbooks help zoos keep track of animal populations.

To go underwater. Hippos like to submerge to stay cool on a hot day.

An animal with a lower social ranking than the leader of the group.

A subdivision of a plant or animal species that shows differences from others of the same species. For example, there is a species of animal called lion; there are two subspecies of lion, the African lion and the Asian lion.

A plant that usually grows in dry, arid areas, with thick, fleshy leaves that store water. Cacti and aloes are succulents.

To prevent breathing.

The ability of an organism to continue living or existing in its environment./The continuation of life.

Capable of being maintained for a long time.

[Back to Top]
The larva stage of frogs and toads, which is characterized by gills and a tail for life in the water.

A type of nut used as an ivory substitute.

The claws of a bird of prey.

The science of the classification of organisms. Common names of plants and animals can vary widely, but their scientific (taxonomic) names are accepted worldwide. For example, the puma (or mountain lion) has more than 40 common names, but only one scientific name, Felis concolor, which identifies the animal anyplace in the world. A taxonomist is one who studies taxonomy.

Belonging to or living on the ground.

The defended part of an animal's home range./A territorial animal is one that defends its territory against intruders.

Threatened species
A government term denoting a species that seems likely to become endangered in the near future.

A long period of rest or inactivity.

Something that contains a poisonous substance or toxin./A poisonous substance produced by an animal.

To move an animal from one place to another.

Tucker babies
Animal offspring that hide in a secure place while their mothers search for food. Mom "tucks" them into the hiding place, as opposed to keeping the offspring with her all the time (see "runner babies"). Many gazelles are tucker babies.

In arctic or subarctic regions, a flat or gently-sloping plain that features low-lying plants and bushes, but no trees. Underneath the topsoil, the ground is often frozen.

A cold-blooded animal with a low, wide body covered by a shell. Some turtles live only in water, some live both on land and in water. Turtles that live only on land are called tortoises.

Long incisor teeth that grow outside the mouths of such animals as the elephant and walrus.

[Back to Top]
The forest layer beneath the canopy that includes small trees, young canopy trees, shrubs, and herbs.

An animal that has hooves, as a deer or horse.

Walking on the toenails, such as zebra do.

[Back to Top]
To disappear, often never to return again.

A toxic matter normally secreted by some animals such as snakes and bees, and transmitted to prey or an enemy chiefly by injection (biting or stinging)./An animal that used venom.

Using worms to convert decaying organic matter into compost.

Bones that make up the backbone (spinal column).

An animal that has a backbone. Humans, dogs, birds, and frogs are vertebrates.

Remaining in a species only in a much reduced or useless state. Vestigial body parts or organs are evidence of parts that the ancestors of an animal had, but that the modern animal no longer needs or uses. For example, the rosy boa snake has vestigial traces of the legs of its lizard ancestors.

An animal doctor.

Tiny bumps on the skin surface. In geckos, villi on the bottom of their toes allow them to cling to slick surfaces.

Producing live young instead of eggs from within the body. This pertains to almost all mammals, several reptiles, and some fish.

[Back to Top]
An animal whose body temperature stays fairly constant, no matter what the temperature of the air around it.

Fleshy appendages on the chin or throat, such as on a bird or goat.

Wean/Weaning process
When an young mammal no longer gets milk from its mother./A time when a young mammal gradually gets less milk from its mother as it learns to eat the solid food of an adult. Mother and offspring also spend more and more time apart from each other.

Webbed feet
The feet of some birds, such as ducks, some mammals, such as otters, or some reptiles, such as turtles, where the toes are connected near the tips by a thin membrane of skin. This helps these animals paddle or swim through water.

Wildlife refuge
An area of land set aside to shelter and protect animals.

The measurement between the tips of a bird or insect's wings when fully extended.

A small, long, thin animal with a soft body and no legs. Worms are cold-blooded and have no backbones.

[Back to Top]
The study of animals./One who studies animals.

Having two toes directed backward and two directed forward, as in the feet of a parrot.