Vocabulary

Definitions and Context

Adaptation:  traits developed over time that help organisms meet their basic needs and survive.
Context: The adaptation of thorns discourages animals from munching on juicy cactus.

Crepuscular: active at dawn and dusk
Context: Some desert animals are crepuscular, avoiding the heat of the midday sun

Desert: area that does not get much rainfall a year
Context: The plants and animals that live in the desert can live with little water.

Ecoregion: an area that is defined by the plants, animals and land that make it different
Context: Texas has ecoregions as varied as the Pineywoods with its forests and the Big Bend desert.

Ecosystem: the system of living and non-living components of an environment that interact with each other.
Context: In a desert ecosystem the temperature and soil type influence what plants can live there.

Exoskeleton: hard outer support on invertebrates
Context: The scorpion has a hard exoskeleton.

Habitat: place where an animal or plant naturally lives or grows, eats, drinks, and finds the shelter it needs
Context: Prickly pear cactus offers habitat to the cactus wren; providing a safe place to build a nest and plenty of insects living among the needles.

Indigenous: occurring naturally and exclusively in a certain region
Context: The desert pocket mouse is indigenous to the desert.

Morphology: description of an organism's form and structure, with special emphasis on external features.
Context: Morphology such as big ears and small size are adaptations for desert life.

Nocturnal: active at night
Context: The nocturnal bat never has to face the hot desert sun.

Survive: stay alive
Context: Some plants such as the agave have special adaptations to help them survive in harsh climates.

Urine: liquid waste produced by animals
Context: Desert animals' urine is more concentrated to conserve water.

Xerocole: animals with adaptations that allow them to live with less water
Context: Most desert animals are xerocoles.


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