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.

calyx (pl. calyces)

clade – A group of organisms that are more related to one another than to any other organism

cnida (pl. cnidae) 



confounding factor

coral bleaching

corallite – Skeletal structures formed by individual coral polyps.

corallivore – Animals that eat coral

ecosystem engineer – An organism that drastically modifies its surrounding physical habitat

holobiont – Not a cult group, alien invader, or indie band, but the collective term for a host organism and its associated microbial community, or microbiome

hypothesis – An 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.

macrobe – Not 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.



pathogen – Disease-causing microorganisms, including various bacteria, viruses, and fungi.


phylum – The 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.

polyp – A coral ‘individual’, which is structurally similar to a single anemone. Many coral polyps are fused together in a colony

sub-cellular – A structure that is smaller than a cell, most often referring to part of a cell.


symbiosis – A close association between organisms that involves frequent physical contact and the nearly complete dependency of at least one partner on the other

vector – Organisms that host and transmit pathogens to other species


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