Glossary

As I write these posts, I try to avoid using too much incomprehensible scientific jargon. However, jargon exists for a reason, and as we get more in-depth through time, I will introduce a number of terms that I find particularly useful or interesting. When I put a term in bold lettering, I have put its definition in hover-text. That is, if you want to know what it means, just place your cursor over it and wait. Test this phrase. But I’m starting to realize that: (A) This escaped the notice of many people, and (B) It’d be nice to collect all these terms in one place. So here’s a glossary. I’m also including terms that I’ve explicitly defined in my posts. If there are any words that you think belong here or that I should add a hover-definition to, let me know.

Word/phraseDefinitionBlog posts
calyx (pl. calyces)The cup-shaped depression inside a corallite that holds an individual coral polyp.
cladeA group of organisms that are more closely related to one another than to any other organism
cnida (pl. cnidae) An organelle that contains a harpoon-like structure that cnidarians use to catch prey and defend themselves.
cnidarianOne of the most basic animal groupings, including jellyfish, sea anemones, corals, and hydroids.
congenericA species that belongs to the same genus as something else. Thus, something that is closely related.
confounding factorA potentially uninteresting variable whose effect is hard to distinguish from that of another, potentially more interesting variable.
coral bleachingThe state of a coral animal that is in danger because has lost its symbiotic algae, generally due to stress from high water temperatures.
coralliteSkeletal structures formed by individual coral polyps.
corallivoreAnimals that eat coral
ecosystem engineerAn organism that drastically modifies its surrounding physical habitat
holobiontNot a cult group, alien invader, or indie band, but the collective term for a host organism and its associated microbial community, or microbiome
hypothesisAn idea about how things work, which is based on previous observations and that can be tested after making more observations. After many more observations are made that support a given hypothesis, it generally becomes accepted as a theory.
macrobeNot really an accepted word, but it’s meant to be the complement of ‘microbe’. Whereas microbes are tiny organisms, macrobes would include us and all other macroscopic forms of life.
microbiomeThe entire community of microorganisms associated with a particular environment. For instance, the human microbiome is the set of all of the microbes that are on or in our bodies.
nematocystA synonym for cnida
pathogenDisease-causing microorganisms, including various bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
photosynthesisThe chemical process by which plants and microbes harness light energy to produce food.
phylumThe largest grouping of animal types. Other phyla include Chordata, which contains all the familiar fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals; and Arthropoda, which includes all insects, arachnids, and crustaceans, from beetles to spiders to lobsters. Cnidaria is thus a very large grouping.
polypA coral ‘individual’, which is structurally similar to a single anemone. Many coral polyps are fused together in a colony
sub-cellularA structure that is smaller than a cell, most often referring to part of a cell.
symbiontA microbe that is closely associated with another organism. Generally used to refer specifically to a microbe that confers beneficial properties to its host.
symbiosisA close association between organisms that involves frequent physical contact and the nearly complete dependency of at least one partner on the other
vectorOrganisms that host and transmit pathogens to other species
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