Definitions and Context

Adaptation: traits developed over time that help organisms meet their basic needs and survive.
Context: The cardinal's adaptation of a short, strong bill allows it to break open seeds to eat.

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.

Fangs: Sharp teeth-like points used by venomous snakes to inject venom into prey
Context: Only venomous snakes have fangs.

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.

Generalist: organisms that can use a wide variety of food, water sources and living spaces
Context: Raccoons are generalists; they make their habitat in the wild or in your backyard.

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: The shape and number of teeth is an inherited trait.

Instinct: an inborn pattern of behavior.
Context: The coyote performs the killing bite by instinct.

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.

Nectar: Sweet liquid produced by plants, usually in flowers, sometimes in nectaries on the stems and leaves.
Context: Butterflies uncurl their long proboscis to sip nectar from flowers.

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: Spiders and crickets are both eaten by bigger animals; they are prey.

Proboscis: A long flexible snout or mouth part.
Context: The proboscis of butterflies is stored rolled into a neat coil when it isn't eating.

Specialist: organisms that have very specific requirements for food, water sources or living spaces. They often utilize a very specialized food source or living space and are very successful as long as the food or space is available.
Context: Endangered species are often specialists that have lost their unique food or homes.

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: Different species of finches have different shaped bills, therefore can eat different foods.