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Habitat - Food, water, shelter, and space together make up an organism's habitat. Without any one of these four things, the organism would not be able to survive.

Hardwood - A tree made of tough material. Many hardwood trees are used by people to make houses, furniture, tools, or other objects.

Head - The place where the brain and sense organs of most animals is located. With insects, the head is the first of three sections (head, thorax, abdomen). It contains eyes, antennae, and mouthparts.

Hedge - A group of shrubs grown in a line by people to make a barrier or fence. Some birds and other small animals use the hedge for nesting or shelter.

Herbivore - An animal that eats mostly plants.

Hermaphrodite - An animal that has both male and female body parts. When hermaphroditic animals, such as earthworms and slugs, mate, each animal is then able to lay eggs.

Hibernate - To be inactive during Winter. Many insects, most reptiles and amphibians, and some mammals hibernate.

Honeydew - A sweet, sticky liquid released by some insects (especially aphids). Other insects used honeydew as food, and carpenter ants will actually "farm" aphids and protect them from predators.

Host - One of the organisms in a parasitic relationship. A parasite grows on or inside the host. The host is not helped by the parasite, and is usually harmed. For example, Common Milkweed is a host plant of the Monarch butterfly. Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed as they grow.

Incubate - When a bird sits on its eggs to keep them warm as baby birds grow inside. Sometimes the male or female, or both, incubate the eggs. Incubation usually lasts for a week or more. Turltles and snakes will often bury their eggs to incubate underground by themselves.

Insect - Six-legged animals in the Arthropod Phylum. Insects also have an exoskeleton (hard part is on the outside) and three main body sections (head, thorax, and abodmen). Most insects also have wings, though not all of them fly. The Insect Class includes bees, ants, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, crickets, fleas, and many others.

Introduce - When a new organism is brought to an environment where it did not live before. Introduced species can cause great problems for native species and for people.

Invertebrate - An animal without a backbone. Invertebrates include insects, arachnids (spiders & ticks), gastropods (snails & slugs), crustaceans (crayfish & isopods), centipedes, worms, and others.

Kingdom - The largest group for classification of living things (taxonomy). There are five kingdoms that scientists put all living things (organims) into: Animal Kingdom, Plant Kingdom, Fungi Kingdom, Protist Kingdom, Moneran Kingdom. Each kingdom is then divided into smaller groups called a phylum.

Lake - A large body of water. Usually fed by several streams. Larger and deeper than a pond.

Larva (more than one = larvae) - An early stage of life for animals that go through metamporphosis (cycle of change). With most insects, larvae hatch from eggs, then become pupae (cocoons), then become adults. With frogs, larvae (tadpoles) hatch from eggs, then slowly turn into frogs (adults). Other animals, including salamanders, mussels, and ticks have larva stages.

Leaf - Small, flat, green part of a plant. Leaves are important because they use sunlight to turn carbon dioxide (a waste gas) into oxygen (the gas all animals need to breathe).

Leaflet - Smaller, "mini-leaf." Some leaves are made up of several leaflets.

Leaf Litter - Dead leaves, bits of bark, and other dead plant matter. Leaf litter is the main shelter for many small animals, including insects, centipedes, and isopods.

Lichen - A combination of two organisms, a fungus and an algae. The two organisms must grow together. Lichens are usually crusty growths seen on tree trunks or rocks.

Life Cycle - The period of time that it takes for an organism to live its entire life. Some animals, such as insects, change their shape several times during their life cycle. These changes are called "metamorphosis."

Litter - A group of young; usually mammals.

Lobe - A rounded part that sticks out. Many leaves have lobes. Sometimes they look like fingers on a hand. You can often tell what kind of tree it is by counting the lobes on a leaf and looking at their shape.

Lungs - Body organs used by animals to breathe oxygen from the air. Animals with lungs must be able to breathe air, although some can hold their breaths under water for a long time.

Maggot - Fly larva.

Mammal - Warm-blooded, usually hairy animals from the Chordate Phylum. This class of animals breathes air, gives live birth, and feeds milk to their young. Human beings are members of the Mammal Class, as well as dogs, cats, deer, mice, squirrels, raccoons, bats, opossums, and others.

Marsh - An area with soft, wet land (also called "wetland"). Marshes are very important because they help clean polluted water, and because many animals and plants live there.

Matter - A type of substance. For example, "plant matter" is material made of plants or plant parts.

Meadow - Another name for field, especially one growing wild.

Metamorphosis - The "cycle of change." Some animals go through metamorphosis, or stages of a life cycle. With insects, most usually go through a four stage cycle (1 = egg, 2 = larva, 3 = pupa, 4 = adult). This is called complete metamorphosis. For other insects, incomplete metamorphosis is when the cycle only has three stages (1 = egg, 2 = nymph, 3 = adult). Aquatic insects go through incomplete metamorphosis because life is too difficult in the water to have a pupa (resting) stage. Besides insects, other animals that go through metamorhposis include frogs (egg, tadpole, adult) and some salamanders. Ticks have their own metamorphosis (egg, larva, nymph, adult).

Migrate - To move from one area to another. Sometimes animals, especially birds, move to a new area when the seasons change. Usually birds migrate south for the Winter, then back north for the Summer. This is so they can survive at a comfortable temperature and have plenty of food.

Mimic - 1. A species that looks very similar to another species. For example, the Viceroy butterfly looks a lot like the Monarch butterfly. Monarchs are poisonous to most predators, but Viceroys are not. Since the Viceroy is a mimic of the Monarch, it gets protection from predators. 2. To copy or behave like another species. Some birds, such as mockingbirds and starlings, mimic the songs of other birds.

Minnow - Any of many species of small fish. Minnows are an important food source for larger fish and other animals. They are often used as bait for fishing.

Mollusk - An animal in the Mollusk Phylum. Mollusks have soft bodies, which are usually inside a shell. Most of them live in water. This phylum includes clams, mussels, snails, and slugs.

Molt - To shed a coat (fur), feathers or skin. In the Summer, mammals molt their winter coats. Birds often molt old feathers for new ones. Insect larvae and crayfish molt their exoskeletons (outer skin or shell) for newer, larger ones.

Moss - Very short, small green plants from the Bryophyta phylum.

Mushroom - The "flowering" part of a fungus. The main body of a fungus is a network of tiny thread-like parts, called mycelium. Mushrooms grow from the mycelium during a particular season and release tiny dust-like spores. Spores travel by wind, water, or animal and hopefully start a new fungus in a new location.

Mutualsim - A relationship between two organisms where both species benefit. See the Relationships page for more explanation.

Mycelium - (more than one = mycelia) The thread-like body of a fungus. Most people think of mushrooms when they think of fungi, but mushrooms are just a part of the organism. Mushrooms "bloom" much like flowers do at certain times of the year. The actual main part of the fungus is the mycelia.

Mycorrhizal Relationship - An example of mutualism where a species of fungus (mushroom) wraps itself around a trees' roots. The mushrom pulls nutrients from the tree to grow, and at the same time delivers nutrients from the soil to the tree.

Naiad - Another name for nymph. Naiad is used to refer to the nymph stage of aquatic insects, such as dragonflies.

Native - Originally from a place. Native plants and animals are organisms that were here before people came. Sometimes new species are introduced to a place. These new species are called "invaders" or "non-natives."

Nectar - A sweet liquid made by flowers. It attracts insects, such as bees and butterflies, as well as hummingbirds. Bees also use it to make honey.

Needle - The leaf of a pine tree. Pine leaves are long and skinny, not flat and rounded like most leaves.

Nematode - Tiny, microscopic animals, also called "roundworms." Some nematodes are important decomposers in the soil. Others live in water, and some are parasites.

Neutralism - A relationship between two organisms where neither is helped nor harmed. See the Relationships page for more explanation.

Nocturnal - Is active mostly at night.

Nutrient - Something that provides nourishment. Food for an animal, plant, fungi, or other organism.

Nymph - A stage in the life cycle of insects that do not go through complete metamorphosis (cycle of change). Most insects have four stages (1 = egg, 2 = larva, 3 = pupa, 4 = adult), but some only have three stages. This is called incomplete metamorphosis (1 = egg, 2 = nymph, 3 = adult). With incomplete metamorphosis, nymphs hatch from eggs and slowly change into adults. There is no pupa, or resting stage. Most aquatic insects have a nymph stage, since a pupa (coccoon) could not survive underwater. A few land insects, such as grasshoperrs and crickets, have a nymph stage also.

Omnivore - An animal that eats both other animals and vegetable foods.

Order - The fourth group that scientists classify living things into. Each class is split into orders. Example: The Rodent Order is in the Mammal Class.

Organism - Any lifeform. It may be a plant, animal, fungi, protist, or moneran. This website was designed to study the different organisms in Northern Virginia and see how they interact with each other.

Ovate - A leaf shaped like an oval.

Overwinter - When an animal survives the Winter and lives until the following Spring. Many insects die when the weather gets cold, but some overwinter.

Ovipositor - A long needle-like tube on the abdomens of some female insects. The ovipositor is used to inject eggs into soil or plant stems. Species that have ovipositors include crickets and crane flies.

Oxygen - A gas that all animals need to live. Some animals have lungs to get oxygen from the air, others have gills to get oxygen from water.

Palmate - A leaf shaped like a hand with fingers stretched out.

Parasite - An organism which lives off another oganism (called a host). A parasite usually grows on or inside its host. It also often, but not always, feeds on it. A parasite does not help its host in any way.

Parasitism - A relationship where one organism (called a parasite) lives off another (called a host). It may live on or inside the host. A parasite does not help the host. Sometimes it hurts the host, sometimes it does not. See the Relationships page for more explanation.

Parthenogenesis - The process by which the female of a species is able to reproduce without a male.

Perennial - A plant that does not die when the weather gets cold. Sometimes the leaves and stems above ground die, but the plant sends up new ones from its roots in the Spring.

Pest - An organism that people find bothersome. Mosquitos, ticks, dandelions, crabgrass, and yellow jackets are often called pests because they annoy people.

Petiole - The stem of a leaf.

Photosynthesis - The process where a plant creates oxygen from carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis is very important, since plants make oxygen for animals (including people) to breathe.

Phylum (more than one = phyla) - The second largest group that scientists classify living things into. Each Kingdom (Animal, Plant, Fungi, Protist, Moneran) is split into phyla. Example: The Chordate Phylum (animals with backbones) is in the Animal Kingdom.

Pinnae - Smaller "mini-leaves" on a leaflet.

Pinnate - Describes a leaf made up of smaller leaflets; usually on both sides of a stem. Each leaflet is called a "pinna" (more than one called "pinnae").

Pioneer - A plant that is one of the first to take over an area. For example, after a fire burns all the trees and wildlife in an area (or after people bulldoze), certain weeds and other plants will"pioneer trees."

Plankton - A collection of microscopic organisms, including algae, animals, and protists, that float in huge numbers in water. Plankton is usually in largest numbers near the surface. Many animals feed on plankton, including young fish. Zooplankton is plankton that is mostly tiny animals, rather than plants.

Plant - An organism in the Plant Kingdom. Plants do not have the ability to move like animals, but they are able to make their own food by pulling water and nutrients from the soil, and by using light. Plants provide food for animals and fungi. Includes trees, shrubs, vines, weeds, wildflowers, ferns, mosses, grasses, and others.

Pod - A type of fruit that contains several seeds in it. Pods will split open when ripe and release the seeds.

Poison - A substance that causes harm to an organism when the organism ingests (eats) it. Poisons can vary in strength; sometimes a poison just makes the organism sick, other times it may kill it. Many species of mushrooms and plants are poisonous to humans. Poison should not be confused with venom.

Pollen - A fine powder made by flowers. With flowering plants, pollen must get from one flower to another flower for a plant to make fruit. Most plants depend on bees or other insects to "pollinate" flowers.

Pollinate - To transfer pollen from the flower of one plant to another plant of the same species. This allows the plant to grow fruits and seeds so it can grow new plants. Bees and other insects help most plants spread by pollinating them.

Polypore - A type of fungus which is usually shelf-like and often grows on the trunks of trees. Artist's Conk and Mossy Maple Polypore are two examples.

Pond - A usually mostly still body of water, smaller than a lake. Usually fed by a small stream.

Predation - A relationship where one organism eats another for food. See the Relationships page for more explanation.

Predator - An animal that eats another animal for food.

Prey - An animal that is eaten by another animal for food.

Primary - First or most important. A "primary food source" means a food that an animal eats most.

Proboscis - A mouthpart of an insect, usually long and skinny. Mosquitos have a proboscis to suck blood; butterflies and moths have a coiled up proboscis which they unravel to suck nectar from flowers.

Protozoa - A group of organisms in the Protist Kingdom. Examples of protozoa include amoebas, euglena, and paramecium.

Pupa (more than one = pupae) - The third stage of life for insects (1 = egg, 2 = larva, 3 = pupa, 4 = adult). An insect larva changes into a pupa in order to make a final change into an adult insect. This is a resting stage where the insect usually doesn't move around or eat. With moths, the pupa is called a "coccoon." With butterflies, it is a "chrysalis." For most insects, we just call it a "pupa."

 

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