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Definitions and Context

Adaptation: traits developed over time that help organisms meet their basic needs and survive.
Context: The adaptation big strong wings helps migrating Monarch butterflies make their long flight.

Field Marks: characteristics used to identify something in the wild
Context: Field marks such as heavy black veins on the wings can help distinguish a Monarch from a Queen.

Inherited trait: an inborn characteristic or behavior that is passed from parent to offspring
Context: Adaptations are inherited traits.

Instar: the stage between molts
Context: The first instar of a monarch caterpillar is tiny, just out of the egg, barely visible; but the fifth instar is big and fat, ready to pupate.

Instinct: an inborn pattern of behavior
Context: Instinct causes the Monarch to migrate to Central Texas from Mexico in the spring.

Larva: newly hatched young that are fundamentally different than the adult
Context: Caterpillars and tadpoles are larva, very different from the butterflies and frogs they will be as adults.

Lepidopterist: A person who studies butterflies and moths.
Context: The best reference for identifying butterflies in the field is your friendly neighborhood lepidopterist.

Metamorphosis: transformation from egg to adult through distinct stages.
Context: The metamorphosis from egg, to caterpillar to butterfly is dramatic.

Migrate: an annual move from one region to another
Context: Monarchs and songbirds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico to South America for the winter.

Poisonous: would make you sick if you ate it
Context: Monarch butterflies are poisonous; birds that eat them get sick.

Pollination: the movement of pollen from male parts of a flower to the female parts of a flower.
Context: Butterflies provide the service of pollination for the flowers from which they sip nectar, whether the caterpillars eat the leaves or not.

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.

Pupa: the stage between larva and adult when the insect is inactive, not eating, usually in a protective case or cocoon.
Context: The pupa of a moth is in a cocoon, spin from silk, the pupa of a butterfly is in a chrysalis, a leathery, tough case.

Roost: Settle down for rest or sleep
Context: Migrating Monarchs may roost together, completely covering whole trees.

Mimicry: The adaptation of one species looking like another.
Context: Viceroys display mimicry of Monarchs in wing color and shape; a bird who has tasted a monarch is not likely to chase a Viceroy.

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.