This glossary is a FREE SERVICE to assist the student and enthusiast alike to get a better understanding of scientific terms, wildlife industry jargon and ecological concepts.
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pachyderm a thick-skinned mammal, esp. an elephant or rhinoceros. Derivative pachydermatous adj.(F pachyderme f. Gk pakhudermos f. pakhus thick + derma -matos skin)

pair bond The social ties that keep members of a mated pair together, usually reinforced by mutual grooming, marking, calling, aggression toward outsiders, etc.

palaeomagnetism Magnetism that was imprinted in rocks when they formed; its measurement enables determination of the orientation and location of the rock mass relative to the Earth’s magnetic poles at the time the rock formed

palaeontology the study of fossils

palatability how tasty an animal finds a plant or another animal

paleo-climate ancestral climatic conditions that were prevalent thousands or millions of years ago

palp sensory organ, usually associated with the head (particularly mouth parts) of arthropods

palps (labial) sensory organs of the mouth parts of insects

pangaea Supercontinent consisting of all of the Earth’s present continents; believed to have formed about 300 million years ago

panleucopenia a viral disease affecting the immune system of felids.

panspermia Notion that life on Earth was seeded from Space

papillae absorption structures in the stomach, resembling small bumps

paradigm a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalisations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated

parakeratosis an abnormal condition affecting the epidermal cells of tissues

parasite An organism that derives its nutritional needs from another living organism at the expense of that organism (called a host)

parasitism symbiotic relationship in which the parasite benefits and the host is negatively affected

pareiasaurid Family of plant-eating early anapsid reptiles that formed an important component of the Permian reptilian fauna; their bodies were covered by large bony scutes (scales) and they had characteristically serrated teeth

parent material a term used to describe the original underlying rock from which a soil was formed

paresis weakening of the muscles, leading to partial paralysis

parotid pertaining to the throat region

parturition the act of giving birth

parvovirus a viral disease causing suppression of the immune system in canids

passerine perching birds

pastern The part of an ungulate's foot extending from the top of the hoof to the fetlock, including the joint.

pathogen harmful microorganism responsible for disease, cholera, botulism, syphilis and many others

pathogenecity the ability of the vector to induce any degree of disease in the host

pathogenesis the process of the development of disease in a host

pauropod an obscure class of minute arthropods with branched antennae and 8 to 10 pairs of legs

pecora A systematic division of the Artiodactyla representing those animals with well-developed, four-chambered ruminant stomachs. Most have paired horns on the head. E.g. giraffe and all the bovids.

pecorans ruminant mammals, usually with paired horns

pediment Gently sloping erosion surface at the base of a mountain

pedipalp a pair of appendages near the mouth of an arachnid that are modified for various reproductive, predatory, or sensory functions

pedogenesis the formation of soil

pedoturbation mixing of the soil layers by earthworms for example

pelage the "pelt" of fur bearing animals

perennial plants that live for a number of years

perennial (plants) a plant that lives more than two years

perennial (water) A body of water (river, stream or lake) that remains throughout the year or over a period of many years.

perihelion the closest point of a planets orbit from the sun

perineum The area that includes the anus and external genitalia, especially the female's.

perissodactyla Odd-toed ungulates. Members of this mammalian order are characterised by having either a single toe or three toes together. E.g. zebra and rhino.

petechiation the appearance of flat, purplish-red spots on internal tissue; normally caused by an internal hemorrhage

petiole the stalk that attaches a leaf to a stem

phanerozoic Eon Period of Earth history extending from 545 million years ago to the present

phenology the study of a plant's life cyle, including flowering, abscission, fruit production etc.

pheromones chemical substances secreted by animals that cause specific reproductive, developmental or behavioural responses in neighbouring members of the same species

photo-sensitivity over-sensitivity to sunlight

photoperiodism the response of plants to changing day and night length

photosynthesis the process whereby plants produce carbohydrates from sunlight

photosynthesis (2) Metabolic process in which light or heat energy is used to convert carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrate

phototropism the growth of a plant in response to a light source

phylum A primary division of a kingdom, as of the animal kingdom, ranking next above a class in size.

physiognomical the outward appearance of something, esp the physical characteristics of a geographical region

physiognomical structure the general form, shape and appearance of the vegetation

physiognomy the structure, in terms of height and density, of the vegetation comprising a plant community eg. short closed grassland

physiographic a combination of factors that are used to describe an ecosystem, including topography, aspects, latitude and altitude

physiological pertaining to body chemistry

phytomass the mass of grass material in a specific area

phytomers describing the general morphology of grass, consisting of an internode, node, leaf, bud and adventitious root

pica depraved appetite. Animals consume unusual substances in an attempt to satisfy a mineral deficiency, especially phosphorus.

picarism the ability that animals have to sense they are ill or have a mineral deficiency. the seeking and consumption of unusual food by animals which are sick or suffering from a mineral deficiency

pillow lava Pillow-shaped masses of lava formed during undersea volcanic eruptions, or when erupting lava issues into a lake or other body of water

piloerection When hair/fur stands on end, eg. in fright or when a mammal tries to make itself look bigger and more frightening in defense.

pinnae external ear lobes

pioneer stage vegetation that is the first to colonise (begin growing) in an area.

piscivore a diet of fish

placoderm Group of early fish that had

plagioclase Mineral consisting of sodium and calcium aluminium silicate

planetesimals Small bodies that grow into planets by a process of accretion

plankton small floating or weakly swimming plants and animals in fresh and marine ecosystems

plantigrade an animal that walks or stands on the whole surface of its feet e.g. Humans, other primates and bears

plastron the lower portion of a chelonia shell

plate boundary Region where the rigid plates that form the outer layer of the Earth come into contact; at these boundaries plates may converge, diverge or slide past each other

plate tectonics Theory that proposes that the outer layer of the Earth (lithosphere) consists of separate, rigid plates (in which the continents are embedded) that move relative to each other

plesiosaur Group of reptiles that were adapted to an aquatic life, having a long neck and paddles; they lived during the Mesozoic Era

plumage feathers

pluton A body (less than 100 square cm) of intrusive igneous rock

pneumostome Long tube which is an extension of the edges of the mantle cavity, for breathing purposes. Found in some Pulmonates.

pod hard outer shell that protects fruit/seeds

pollination the transfer of genetic material (pollen) from the stamen (male part) of one flower to the stigma (female part) of another flower of the same species

polyandry the mating of one female with more than one male

polygamy a male that mates with more than one female

polygyny Mating system in which one male has reproductive access to two or more females.

polymorphism different body forms in the same species e.g. soldier and worker termites

population a group of conspecifics that reside in the same habitat in the same area or region

pre-orbital pertaining to the region around the eye

precipitation any form of rain, sleet, snow, hail dew, fog or mist

precocial young born in an advanced state, they are able to move about, covered in fur or feathers, and are not blind and helpless

predation The killing/eating of living animal prey.

predeliction site preffered attachedment places for ticks

predilection A partiality or disposition in favor of something; a preference.

prehensile able to grasp and hold onto things with a tail / tongue

preorbital In front of the eye, where a gland occurs in many ungulates.

preputial pertaining to the genital region of males, specifically the penile area

presenting The act of directing the hindquarters toward another individual, either in sexual solicitation or as a gesture of appeasement derived from sexual presenting.

primate mammals having opposable thumbs for grasping

procaryote Life form consisting of simple, single cells, such as cyanobacteria, that are not specialised and do not have organelles or a nucleus inside them

procolophonid Family of plant-eating early anapsid reptiles common during the Triassic Period in Antarctica, Argentina, China and South Africa

producer an organism that is able to make its own food e.g. plants produce food by the process of photosynthesis.

prokaryotic An organism of the Kingdom Monera, comprising the bacteria and cyanobacteria, characterized by the absence of a distinct, membrane-bound nucleus and by DNA that is not organized into chromosomes.

pronking See stotting.

prosauropod Primitive plant-eating member of the early Saurischian dinosaurs, including the ancestors of the later gigantic brontosaurs

proteins Complex combinations of amino acids containing carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, ; essential constituents of all living cells, have to be assimilated as separate amino acids by animals.

proterozoic era Period of Earth history extending from 2 500 million to 545 million years ago

proto-alkaloids an alkaloid without the heterocyclic nitrogen atom.

protozoa a unicellular animal

prussic acid poisoning poisoning in animals after consuming wilted and damaged plants containing harmful glycosides

pseudo-alkaloids type of alkaloid differing from others in terms of the origin of the carbon framework.

pseudotachylite Dark, fine-grained rock, often containing fragments of other rocks, which occurs in the form of dykes; believed to form by frictional melting of the surrounding rock

psychological pertaining to the mind, usually with reference to behaviour

pterosaur Member of a group of bat-like flying reptiles that co-existed with the dinosaurs, and also became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous; often referred to as pterodactyls, but this name properly applies to only one branch of the pterosaurs

pupa insect in pre-active, pre-adult form (cocoon)

putrefaction decomposition of organic substances and the release of foul-smelling gases

pyroclastic flow Avalanche of hot, often incandes- cent, volcanic rock and dust, together with superheated gases, emanating from a volcano

pyroxene An iron, magnesium silicate; calcium- bearing and calcium-free varieties exist

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