Nature's Nursery

Definitions and Context

Adaptation: traits developed over time that help organisms meet their basic needs and survive.
Context: The adaptation of toes that cling tight allows the bat pup to hang safely in the cave while the mother bat forages.

Atricial: young that are born bald, helpless and must be tended, fed and kept warm
Context: Atricial mouse pinkies spend their first days snuggled together in the nest.

Camouflage: coloring or marks that help an animal blend into its surroundings to hide from predators or prey.
Context: As part of their camouflage, many fish and sharks have lighter coloring underneath and darker coloring above so underwater predators or prey looking up toward the sun don't see them well, and from up above, they are equally hard to spot as they blend into the darkness below.

Infancy: the earliest stage of growth
Context: Eaglets are carefully tended and kept warm during infancy.

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, this baby squirrel has inherited traits that help him survive in the trees.

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 fawn to hunker down and be very still when a predator approaches.

Juvenile: in the life stage between infancy and adult
Context: The plumage on juvenile male cardinals is similar to the female color.

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.

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.

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

Nymph: an immature insect that differs from the adult in size, wings, or reproductive features.
Context: A grasshopper undergoes incomplete metamorphosis, the larva is a nymph - just a smaller version of the adult with no wings; in contrast a butterfly undergoes complete metamorphosis, the larva is a caterpillar - nothing like the winged beauty it will grow up to be.

Precocial: young that are born relatively mature with fur or down, capable of running and eating shortly after birth
Context: Precocial deer fawns are born ready to run.

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.