Animals | Animal Glossary

Click a letter above to advance to terms beginning with that letter.


Aerial roots search for term

Any root exposed to the air.

Aggression search for term

An unprovoked attack made by an animal.

Aggressiveness search for term

The tendency for an animal to attack.

Alarm signal search for term

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

Albino search for term

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.

Algae search for term

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 search for term

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

Altricial search for term

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.

Ambush search for term

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.

Anatomy search for term

The structure of an organism or of its parts.

Animal Kingdom search for term

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

Antenna search for term

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.

Anthropomorphic search for term

To refer to animal behavior in terms of human behavior.

Antivenin search for term

An antitoxic serum used in the treatment of snakebites.

Antlers search for term

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

Aquatic search for term

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

Arboreal search for term

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

Artificial insemination search for term

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

Artiodactyla search for term

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

Go to top


Bachelor herd search for term

A group of non-breeding males of the same species that forms its own herd away from the main herd that contains the females.

Backbone search for term

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

Bacteria search for term

Any one of a group of very small living things. 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.

Binocular vision search for term

Two-eyed vision that allows animals to judge distance.

Biodegradable search for term

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

Biodiversity search for term

Having many different life forms within a given area.

Biologist search for term

Someone who studies life and living things.

Biology search for term

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.

Biosphere search for term

The portion of the Earth in which living systems occur.

Bipedal locomotion search for term

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

Bird of prey search for term

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.

Blastocyst search for term

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

Blowgun search for term

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

Blubber search for term

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 search for term

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

Botany/Botanist search for term

The study of plants./One who studies plants.

Brachiate search for term

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

Browse search for term

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.

Burrow search for term

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

Bushmeat search for term

Wild animals that are killed by people for food.

Go to top


Camouflage search for term

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.

Canine search for term

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

Canine teeth search for term

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

Canopy search for term

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

Captive propagation search for term

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

Captivity search for term

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

Carapace search for term

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

Carcass search for term

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

Carnivore search for term

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

Carnivore diet search for term

Carnivore diet is a meat-based diet made for zoo carnivores. It also contains additional amino acids, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.

Carrion search for term

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

Casque search for term

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

Caudal search for term

Referring to the tail.

Cay search for term

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

Chelonian search for term

A turtle or tortoise.

Chromosomes search for term

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

Chrysalis search for term

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) search for term

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.

Cloaca search for term

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.

Clutch search for term

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

Cocoon search for term

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

Cold-blooded search for term

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

Colony search for term

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

Colostrum search for term

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

Community search for term

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

Competition search for term

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

Compost search for term

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

Conditioning search for term

Training an animal to accept a certain pattern of behavior.

Coniferous search for term

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

Conspecific search for term

Of the same species.

Constrict search for term

To squeeze.

Constrictor search for term

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.

Consumer search for term

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 search for term

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

Courtship search for term

All behavioral patterns leading to breeding or pair formation.

Crepuscular search for term

Active mainly at dawn and dusk.

Crustacean search for term

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 search for term

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.

Cud search for term

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.

Cursorial search for term

Having limbs adapted for running.

Go to top


Deciduous search for term

Trees that lose their leaves each year.

Decomposer search for term

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.

Deforestation search for term

The process of destroying forest habitat(s).

Dewlap search for term

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

Digitigrade search for term

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

Dimorphism search for term

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

Disperse search for term

To scatter or spread widely, as in dispersing seeds.

Disruptive coloration search for term

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.'

Diurnal search for term

Awake and active during the day, asleep at night.

Domestic search for term

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.

Dominance search for term

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

Dorsal search for term

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

Double clutching search for term

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

Droppings search for term

The dung, or fecal matter, of animals.

Drought search for term

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

Go to top


Echolocation search for term

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.

Ecology search for term

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

Ecosystem search for term

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

Ecotourism search for term

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

Ectotherm/Ectothermic search for term

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 search for term

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

Emergent layer search for term

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

Enclosure search for term

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

Endangered search for term

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.

Endotherm search for term

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 search for term

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.

Environmental indicator species search for term

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

Erosion search for term

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

Estivation search for term

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

Estrus (cycle) search for term

The rhythmic changes in the mammalian female that enable her to become pregnant.

Ethogram search for term

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

Ethology search for term

The science and study of animal behavior.

Evaporation search for term

Liquid water turning into gas vapor.

Evolution search for term

A very slow growth or change.

Ex situ search for term

In captivity.

Exoskeleton search for term

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.

Exotic search for term

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

Extinct/Extinction search for term

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

Extirpated search for term

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

Go to top


Facial disc search for term

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.

Fauna search for term

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

Feces search for term

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

Feline search for term

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

Feral search for term

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

Flagship species search for term

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.

Fledge/Fledgling search for term

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 search for term

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

Flipper search for term

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

Flock search for term

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

Flora search for term

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

Floristic search for term

Concerned with or relating to flowers.

Food chain search for term

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

Forage/Foraging search for term

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

Forest floor search for term

The ground layer of a rain forest.

Fossorial search for term

Adapted for burrowing or digging.

Frugivore search for term

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

Go to top


Gene search for term

A functional hereditary unit that occupies a fixed location on a chromosome and has a specific influence on heredity factors.

Genetic diversity search for term

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.

Genetics search for term

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

Genus search for term

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 search for term

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.

Gill search for term

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

Gizzard search for term

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

Global warming search for term

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

Granivore search for term

An animal that eats grain or seeds.

Gravid search for term

A pregnant animal.

Graze search for term

To eat grasses and other ground-level plants.

Grooming search for term

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.

Groundwater search for term

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

Guard hairs search for term

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

Go to top


Harem search for term

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

Headstart search for term

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.

Herbivore search for term

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

Herpetology/Herpetologist search for term

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

Hibernate/hibernation search for term

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

Hierarchy search for term

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.

Holistic search for term

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

Home range search for term

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

Horns search for term

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

Horticulture search for term

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 Safari Park.

Host search for term

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

Hotspot search for term

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.

Husbandry search for term

The daily care of animals.

Go to top


Immobilization search for term

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

Imperiled search for term

A species that is at risk of dying out.

Imprinting search for term

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 search for term

In the natural, or wild, location.

Inbreeding search for term

Reproduction by the mating of closely related individuals.

Incubate search for term

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

Indigenous search for term

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

Insectivore search for term

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

Instinct search for term

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.

Interpreter search for term

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

Interpretive signs search for term

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

Introduced species search for term

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

Invertebrate search for term

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

Go to top


Juvenile search for term

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.

Go to top


Keratin search for term

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

Knuckle walk search for term

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

Go to top


Landlocked search for term

Having no direct access to the sea.

Larva/larvae search for term

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

Leaf eater biscuit search for term

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.

Lek search for term

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.

Leucistic search for term

Characterized by reduced pigmentation. It is different than albinism, which has no pigmentation.

Life cycle search for term

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

Litter/littermate search for term

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.

Livestock search for term

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

Longevity search for term

The length of time something lives or lasts.

Go to top


Mane search for term

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

Marine search for term

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

Marsupial search for term

A type of mammal that develops in a pouch.

Matriarchal society search for term

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

Melanistic search for term

The black or dark color form of an organism.

Metamorphosis search for term

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

Migrate/migration search for term

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

Milk tooth search for term

A temporary tooth of a mammal.

Mimic search for term

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

Molt search for term

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

monogamous search for term

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

Monotreme search for term

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

Montane search for term

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 search for term

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.

Go to top


Native species search for term

An animal that has always lived in a certain area and is naturally found there.

Natural resources search for term

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

Necking search for term

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

Nectar search for term

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

Neotropic search for term

Having a distribution including Central and South America.

New World search for term

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

Niche search for term

An animal's role within its habitat.

Nictitating membrane search for term

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.

Nocturnal search for term

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

Nomadic search for term

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

Non-renewable search for term

Natural resources that do not replenish themselves readily.

Go to top


Old World search for term

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

Olfactory search for term

The sense of smell.

Omnivore search for term

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

Opposable thumb/toe search for term

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

Organic search for term

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

Organism search for term

Anything that is alive.

Ornamental plumage search for term

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

Ossicones search for term

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

Oviparous search for term

Producing eggs that develop and hatch outside the body.

Ovoviviparous search for term

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

Go to top


Pachyderm search for term

Meaning 'thick skin,' this term usually refers to elephants, but can also apply to hippos.

Pacing search for term

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

Parasite search for term

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

Pelage search for term

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

Perennial plant search for term

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

Pest search for term

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

Pesticide search for term

A chemical used to kill insects.

Photosynthesis search for term

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

Pinion search for term

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

Pinniped search for term

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.

Piscivorous search for term


Plankton search for term

Tiny organisms that float or weakly swim in the ocean.

Plantigrade search for term

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

Plastron search for term

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

Poaching/poacher search for term

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.

Pollen search for term

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

Pollinator/Pollinate search for term

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.

Polygamous search for term

Having more than one mate at a single time.

Population density search for term

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

Precocial search for term

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

Predator search for term

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

Preen search for term

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

Prehensile search for term

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

Prey search for term

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

Primates search for term

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

Producer search for term

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

Protocol search for term

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

Psittacines search for term

Parrots and their relatives.

Pupa search for term

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

Go to top


Quadrat search for term

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.

Quarantine search for term

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

Quill search for term

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.

Go to top


Rabies search for term

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

Raptor search for term

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.

Regenerate search for term

Formed or created again.

Regurgitate search for term

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.

Rehabilitate search for term

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

Reintroduce search for term

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

Renewable search for term

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

Repatriate search for term

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

Reproductive potential search for term

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

Reticulated search for term

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.

Retractable search for term

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

Riparian search for term

Community of plants and animals found along waterways.

Rodent search for term

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

Roost search for term

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

Ruminant search for term

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

Runner babies search for term

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.

Go to top


Sanctuary search for term

A place of refuge for animals where predatory animals may be controlled and hunting is not allowed.

Sanguinivore search for term

An animal that drinks blood.

Saurophagous search for term

An animal that eats lizards.

Scale search for term

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

Scat search for term

An animal's fecal droppings.

Scavenger/scavenge search for term

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 search for term

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.

Sexual dimorphism search for term

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

Sidewinding search for term

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

Slash-and-burn agriculture search for term

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

Social/social skills search for term

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

Solitary search for term

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

Spar search for term

When two animals fight each other.

Species search for term

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) search for term

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.

Spine search for term

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

Stalk search for term

To creep silently and slowly towards something without being seen.

Stampede search for term

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

Studbook search for term

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.

Submerge search for term

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

Subordinate search for term

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

Subspecies search for term

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.

Succulent search for term

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

Suffocate search for term

To prevent breathing.

Survive/Survival search for term

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

Sustainable search for term

Capable of being maintained for a long time.

Go to top


Tadpole search for term

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

Tagua search for term

A type of nut used as an ivory substitute.

Talons search for term

The claws of a bird of prey.

Taxonomy/Taxonomist search for term

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.

Terrestrial search for term

Belonging to or living on the ground.

Territory/Territorial search for term

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

Threatened species search for term

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

Torpor search for term

A long period of rest or inactivity.

Toxic/Toxin search for term

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

Translocate search for term

To move an animal from one place to another.

Tucker babies search for term

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.

Tusks search for term

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

Go to top


Understory search for term

The forest layer beneath the canopy that includes small trees, young canopy trees, shrubs, and herbs.

Ungulate search for term

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

Unguligrade search for term

Walking on the toenails, such as zebra do.

Go to top


Vanish search for term

To disappear, often never to return again.

Venom/Venomous search for term

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.

Vermiculture search for term

Using worms to convert decaying organic matter into compost.

Vertebrae search for term

Bones that make up the backbone (spinal column).

Vertebrate search for term

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

Vestigial search for term

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.

Veterinarian search for term

An animal doctor.

Villi search for term

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

Viviparous search for term

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

Go to top


Warm-blooded search for term

An animal whose body temperature stays fairly constant, no matter what the temperature of the air around it.

Wattles search for term

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

Wean search for term

When an young mammal no longer gets milk from its mother.

Weaning process search for term

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 search for term

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 search for term

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

Wingspan search for term

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

Go to top


Zoologist search for term

One who studies animals.

Zoology search for term

The study of animals.

Zygodactyl search for term

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

Go to top