ancestor: A predecessor. It could be a family forebear, such as a parent, grandparent or great-great-great grandparent. Or it could be a species, genus, family or other order of organisms from which some later one evolved. For instance, ancient dinosaurs are the ancestors of today’s birds. (antonym: descendant)

aquatic: An adjective that refers to water.

Arctic: A region that falls within the Arctic Circle. The edge of that circle is defined as the northernmost point at which the sun is visible on the northern winter solstice and the southernmost point at which the midnight sun can be seen on the northern summer solstice. The high Arctic is that most northerly third of this region. It’s a region dominated by snow cover much of the year.

biologist: A scientist involved in the study of living things.

camouflage: Hiding people or objects from an enemy by making them appear to be part of the natural surroundings. Animals can also use camouflage patterns on their skin, hide or fur to hide from predators.

cell: (in biology) The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells.

climate change: Long-term, significant change in the climate of Earth. It can happen naturally or in response to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests.

conservation: The act of preserving or protecting something. The focus of this work can range from art objects to endangered species and other aspects of the natural environment.

DNA: (short for deoxyribonucleic acid) A long, double-stranded and spiral-shaped molecule inside most living cells that carries genetic instructions. It is built on a backbone of phosphorus, oxygen, and carbon atoms. In all living things, from plants and animals to microbes, these instructions tell cells which molecules to make.

environmental DNA: Also known as eDNA. It is genetic material that has been left in the environment by some organism. Scientists can often detect the unseen presence of a species solely on the basis of this shed DNA.

gene: (adj. genetic) A segment of DNA that codes, or holds instructions, for a cell’s production of a protein. Offspring inherit genes from their parents. Genes influence how an organism looks and behaves.

genetic: Having to do with chromosomes, DNA and the genes contained within DNA. The field of science dealing with these biological instructions is known as genetics. People who work in this field are geneticists.

host: (in biology and medicine) The organism (or environment) in which some other thing resides. Humans may be a temporary host for food-poisoning germs or other infective agents. (v.) The act of providing a home or environment for something. A website, for instance, could host photos, news or other types of information.

mammal: A warm-blooded animal distinguished by the possession of hair or fur, the secretion of milk by females for feeding their young, and (typically) the bearing of live young.

mitochondria: (sing. mitochondrion) Structures in all cells (except bacteria and archaea) that break down nutrients, converting them into a form of energy known as ATP.

mitochondrial DNA: DNA passed on to offspring, almost always by their female parent. Housed in mitochondria, this DNA is double-stranded but circular. It’s also very small, only possessing a small share of the genes found in the main package of DNA, the material found in a cell’s nucleus.

nucleus: Plural is nuclei. (in biology) A dense structure present in many cells. Typically a single rounded structure encased within a membrane, the nucleus contains the genetic information.

population: (in biology) A group of individuals (belonging to the same species) that lives in a given area.

residue: A remnant or material that is left behind after something has been removed. For instance, residues of paint may remain behind after someone attempts to sand a piece of wood; or sticky residues of adhesive tape may remain on the skin after a bandage is removed; or residues of chemicals may remain in the blood after exposure to a pollutant.

sea: An ocean (or region that is part of an ocean). Unlike lakes and streams, seawater — or ocean water — is salty.

sex: An animal’s biological status with respect to reproductive functions, typically male or female. There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitals. It can also be a term for some system of mating between male and female animals such that each parent organism contributes genes to the potential offspring, usually through the fertilization of an egg cell by a sperm cell.

species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.

stress: (in psychology) A mental, physical, emotional or behavioral reaction to an event or circumstance (stressor) that disturbs a person or animal’s usual state of being or places increased demands on a person or animal; psychological stress can be either positive or negative.

tissue: Made of cells, it is any of the distinct types of materials that make up animals, plants or fungi. Cells within a tissue work as a unit to perform a particular function in living organisms. Different organs of the human body, for instance, often are made from many different types of tissues.

unique: Something that is unlike anything else; the only one of its kind.


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