Amphibians – animals with backbones that require two states of nature
to complete their life cycle ("amphi" = both sides, "bios"=life); have soft skin
easily penetrated by water, lay eggs in water to keep the developing young
moist. Adults may reside on dry land.
Brille – also called the ocular scale, spectacle, or eye cap, the clear
membrane that covers the eye in snakes. Unlike an eyelid, the brille is fixed
and does not open or close. Turns blue or cloudy when the snake is ready to shed
its skin. From the German, meaning "glasses".
Caecilian – worm-like member of the amphibians, they have no legs and
burrow underground. Primarily live in tropical soils; there are no caecilians in
Canthus rostralis – In reptiles and amphibians, the line,
sometimes a ridge, connecting the tip of the snout with the top of the eye
Carapace – the top or back shell of a turtle or tortoise. Also present as
the exoskeleton (shell) of crabs and other crustaceans, and in spiders
Clutch – group of eggs produced at a single time by birds or reptiles,
particularly those laid in a nest.
Crypsis– the ability of an animal to avoid detection. When coloration is
used, the form of crypsis is called camouflage.
Deciduous – trees and other plants that lose their leaves in the
Dorsal / Dorsum – upper side or back of an organism. Contrast with "ventral".
Herpetology – the study of amphibians and reptiles; from the Greek "herpeton"
meaning "crawling animal" and "ologia" meaning "the study of". The animals in
this group are often referred to by the abbreviated "herps".
Ectothermy- the ability of organism to regulate its body temperature by
absorbing or exchanging heat from the environment; via conduction (by laying on
warm rocks and absorbing the heat through direct contact, for example) or by
radiant heat (by warming themselves in the sun). From the Greek ecto, meaning
"outside", therme, meaning "heat". Often previously referred to as
"cold-blooded". Contrast with Endothermy.
Endotherapy – the ability of an organism to maintain a steady body
temperature, regardless of surrounding environmental conditions. This involves
regulating the body's metabolic rate, for example by sweating to cool the body
or shivering to warm the body. Previously referred to as "warm-blooded".
Metamorphosis – the process of transformation
Oviduct – a tube (or duct) in female vertebrates through which passes the
ovum (or egg) from the ovary (where it is generated) to either the uterus (in
mammals) or out of the female's body (reptiles and amphibians, birds)
Oviparous – egg-laying animals
Ovoviviparous – an animal for which the female retains the eggs in her
body until just be for hatching OR the eggs hatch in her body.
Parotoid Gland(s) – In True Frogs (Bufonidae), paired skin glands
located on the back of the head, behind the eyes, which secrete a toxic
alkaloid substance that acts as a deterrent to predators. May be used as a
diagnostic feature, since glands may look different in different species.
Parthenogenesis – the process by which female animals reproduce without
the participation of males. The young are all female and are genetic duplicates
of the mother. Found in some amphibians (salamanders) and reptiles (lizards).
Physiographic Regions – landform subdivisions that are delineated by
similar terrain and geologic structure and history. In Maryland, we have
from 3 – 8 (depending on how detailed the delineations). Most recognize the
Coastal Plain (Upper and Lower), the Piedmont, and the Mountains (which may
include the Blue Ridge, Ridge & Valley, and Allegheny, or Appalachian
Plateau). Click here for May of
Maryland's Physiographic Regions.
Pineal body – also called the pineal gland and the third eye. This tiny
organ resides deep in the brain of vertebrates (herps, birds, mammals, some
fish); its cells are photosensitive – activated by light. This gland is believed
to regulate circadian rhythms, the cycle of activity and rest.
Plastron – the lower part or belly of the shell of a turtle
Rachis – a center shaft from which radiate other structures. In
amphibians, applied to gill structure; in plants, applied to leaf structure;
in birds, applied to feathers.
Reptiles - animals with backbones that have dry scaley skin which is
impervious to water; their eggs have a shell that holds moisture for the
developing young. From the Latin "repere" = to creep.
Scute – the enlarged, platelike scale on a reptile; usually refers to the
scales on the shell of a turtle
Spermatophore – a packet or capsule of sperm created and presented by the
male to the female (amphibians). She may choose to pick up the packet or not,
depending on his courtship display. Internal fertilization occurs if she places
in her ovipore near the unfertilized eggs. External fertilization occurs if she
deposits her unfertilized eggs outside of her body and places the spermatophore
Tuatara – spiny-backed member of the reptiles, they resemble lizards but
have significant differences in anatomy and behavior. Tuatara are found only in
Ventral / Venter – the lower or belly side of an organism. Contrast with "dorsal".
Vernal Pools – a confined depression, or basin, with no above ground outlet or
stream, that holds water for at least two months out of the year. Generally
does not support fish; limited plant life is found only on the edges of the
Tympanum or Tympanic membrane – in frogs and toads, the external eardrum;
found behind the eye. In some species, can be used to determine the sex of
the individual: in males it is larger than the eye; in females, it is the
same size as the eye.
Viviparous – an animal that gives birth to live young. Contrast with
Oviparous and Ovoviviparous