Biology Glossery

I realize Science is full of jargon, and sometimes I fall into using it. I try to write so anyone could pick up my blog and understand what I mean, but sometimes, a few technical terms sneak through my radar (especially as I start geeking out). So I'm starting a Glossary of wildlife genetics terms, in case I forget to define it. If you want a word added, just leave a comment!
  • aDNA - Ancient DNA. Usually DNA taken out of old bones. This is treated differently because aDNA is such a technical challenge. It's nothing like Jurassic Park (sadly!).
  • Allele - Different versions of the same Gene. 
  • Apex Predator - A predator that has few, or no, things that predate on it. If you think of a food pyramid, with willow on the bottom, moose in the middle, the apex predator would be the wolf on top.
  • Chromosome - A packet of DNA within the centre of most cells.
  • DNA - The instructions of life! This molecule contains the information required to build an organism. Different animal species have different DNA. Within species, there's DNA variation too.
  • Gene - a region of DNA that is the `unit` of inheritance. Genes frequently, but not always, make some protein product, or some other useful thing.
  • Genome - All of the DNA the animal/organism has.
  • Heterozygous - Every mammal and bird has two copies of every chromosome - one from the father, one from the mother. If the corresponding region of the same chromosome - the same locus on your maternal and paternal chromosome - are different, they are `heterozygous` for the locus.
  • Homozygous - In the same situation as heterozygous, if the organism has the same form of DNA at the same locus, it is considered homozygous. Example: People with blue eyes have two copies of the same gene responsible for eye pigmentation. 
  • Intensive Management (IM) - The State of Alaska's use of trophic engineering to reshape community structure. Typically through temporary reduction of apex predators to increase large herbivore populations. Also called "predator control," although this name is misleading as the target of the management are the large herbivores, and not the predators.
  • Locus/Loci - A region of DNA. Any region. Locus is the singular, loci is the plural.
  • mtDNA - DNA that resides in the mitochondria. The mitochondria (the power house of the cell) maintains its own set of DNA to produce what it needs. This is neat for two reasons 1) mtDNA only comes from the mother, so its matrilineal 2) you have a lot of mitochondria, so you have a lot of mitochondrial DNA.
  • Mesopredator - a Middling sized predator, such as a coyote, a fox, an escaped house cat, raccoons, skunks, and so on. If one imagines a trophic pyramid, these are the animals in the middle, that prey on things below them, but who can be in-turn preyed upon by apex predators.
  • Monogamy - where a single female and male form an exclusive reproductive association. This can be socially (where they form a pairbond, but the offpsring may be from other sires/dams), genetically (where all offspring come from a single sire/dam), or both. It can also be for just one reproductive cycle, or for a whole life time.
  • nDNA - Nuclear DNA. All the DNA that isn't a sex chromosome or mtDNA. Though, sometimes this definition includes sex chromosomes, depending on who's talking.
  • Population - A group of interbreeding animals. This definition is foxier than you'd think!
  • Predator - an species that derives it's energy through killing and consuming another organism. This can be a fox, a raptor, or a wolf, but it can also be a finch eating seeds. Predation is usually context specific.
  • Prey - an species that the target of another species, which captures, kills, and consumes it for whatever reason (typically for energy and nutrition).
  • Sex Chromosome - The x or y chromosome in mammals (Z and W in birds). The compliment of sex chromosomes helps determine gender development. Among mammals, males are XY, and females XX. In birds, ZZ are males, and ZW are females - totally opposite!