Definitions and Context
Adaptation: traits developed over time that help organisms meet their basic needs and survive.
Context: The whitetail deer's adaptation of long, strong legs allows it to escape from predators.
Carnivore: a meat eater.
Context: With pointy teeth for ripping flesh, the coyote is a carnivore.
Consumer: an organism that feeds on plants and/or animals.
Context: The hawk and the mouse are both consumers; unlike the plants they must eat to survive.
Food Web: and interlocking pattern of food chains.
Context: The food web of the wetland ecosystem includes land and water plants, raccoons, egrets, oysters and marsh snakes.
Herbivore: a plant eater.
Context: Rabbits eat leafy plants and mice eat the seeds; they are both herbivores.
Inherited trait: an inborn characteristic or behavior that is passed from parent to offspring.
Context: With a long tail like his mother's and strong claws like his father's, a baby squirrel has inherited traits that help it survive in the trees.
Instinct: an inborn pattern of behavior.
Context: Instinct causes the Golden-Cheeked Warbler to migrate to Central Texas in the spring and build a nest from Juniper bark and insect silk.
Learned trait: a characteristic or behavior that is learned or developed through experience.
Context: Mother bobcat watches her kits wrestle and pounce developing the learned traits that will serve them in hunting.
Omnivore: an animal that eats both plant and animal materials.
Context: The raccoon eats fruit and other plant parts as well as crayfish, insects and other small animals; it is an omnivore.
Population: the number of individuals of a particular species in a defined area.
Context: The population of Gulf Coast Toads in this watershed may be affected by the use of pesticides upstream.
Predator: an animal that kills and eats other animals.
Context: Hawks and coyotes both eat small rodents; they are predators.
Prey: animals that are killed and eaten by other animals.
Context: Rabbits and crickets are both eaten by bigger animals; they are prey.
Species: a population of animals that are more or less alike and that are able to breed and produce fertile offspring under natural conditions; a category of biological classification immediately below the genus or subgenus.
Context: Monarch butterflies are the only species of butterfly that is known to migrate long distances.