Patterns in Nature – Vocabulary for Children

abdomen  The body section behind the thorax; the back end of an insect or spider.

altricial  Baby birds that are helpless and featherless when they hatch and depend upon their parents for food and warmth for several weeks.

amphibians  A group of animals with moist skin including frogs, toads and salamanders, that live part of their lives in water breathing with gills, and part on land breathing with lungs.

antenna  A pair of long, thin structures on the heads of insects and some other animals, that are important as feelers and for the sense of smell.

blade  The broad, flat green surface of a leaf; also a long, thin leaf, as in a grass plant.

bounder  An animal with a long narrow body and very short legs, such as mink or weasel, that  moves like an accordian, leaving footprints in slanted pairs.

camouflage  Colors or patterns that blend in with the background.

capped column  A combination snow crystal consisting of a six-sided tube of ice with flat, six-sided plates growing at either end, like an axle with wheels.

carbon dioxide  A colorless, odorless gas in the air, used  by plants for photosynthesis.

cavity nest  A nest made in a chamber where a bird lays its eggs, such as inside a tree trunk, birdhouse, or sandbank.

chlorophyl  A green chemical in leaves that helps the plant capture the sun’s energy to make food.

column  A tiny six-sided tube of ice that is often mostly hollow.

compound eyes  The large eyes of insects, made up of many small structures for seeing.

compound leaf  A leaf made up of many smaller leaves (called leaflets) on a common stem.

conifer  A tree or shrub, often evergreen,  that usually bears its seeds in cones.

countershading  A pattern of coloration in which an animal is darker on the upper side and lighter on the underside of its body.

cup nest  A basket-like nest with a hollow for the eggs.

dewclaws  In deer and moose, two small toes high up on the foot that often don’t touch the ground; can also be seen in dogs.

disguise  The use of any protective coloration that makes an animal hard to see.

disruptive coloration  A pattern of stripes or spots that break up an animal’s outline, making it hard to pick it out from its  background.

exoskeleton  The hard outer body-covering of insects, spiders and some other small animals that provides support and protection.

fertile frond  A frond of a fern that contains the spore-bearing structures.

fiddlehead  The young, curled-up fern before it unfurls into a frond; named for its resemblance to the curled neck of  a fiddle.

field marks  Markings on a bird or other animal that are characteristic of a particular species and useful in identification.

flash coloration  A  sudden display of eyespots or patches of bright color, that startle a predator, giving the prey an opportunity to escape.

fledgling  Young birds that are just learning to fly and take care of themselves.

forewings  The two front wings of an insect.

freezing rain  A form of winter precipitation that forms when rain passes through a layer of freezing air at groundlevel and freezes on contact with anything it touches.

frond  The long, tapered leaf of a fern.

fruit dots  Structures on fern fronds that hold the spores. Also called sori.

gill  The breathing organ in fish and other animals that live in water, that lets them get oxygen out of the water.

graupel  Snow crystals coated with frost that look like white, popcorn-like pellets.

hexagonal crystal  A flat, six-sided snow crystal.

hindwings  The two back wings of an insect.

hopper  An animal like a frog, rabbit or squirrel, that moves by hopping, with the larger back feet landing ahead of the smaller front feet.

incubate  To sit on eggs to keep them warm until they are ready to hatch.

irregular snowflakes  Imperfect snow crystals.

leaf margins  The edges of a leaf.

leaf venation  How the veins are arranged in a leaf.

leaflets  Small leaf-like parts of  a larger compound leaf.

masking  A disguise in which an animal hides itself from predators by covering its body  with materials like pebbles or twigs from its habitat.

matching color  A form of protective coloration in which the animal has colors or patterns to match the natural background of its habitat.

metamorphosis  In insects and amphibians, a change in form during development, with young and adult stages being distinctly different from each other in appearance, behavior, diet, and habitat.

midrib  The large central vein in a leaf.

mimicry  A disguise in which an animal has coloration similar to another animal that is poisonous, which helps warn off predators.

needle  The very narrow, stiff leaves of evergreen trees that have a waxy covering and often pointy tips.

needle crystal  A snow crystal with long, slender columns, pointed at both ends.

nestling  A young bird not yet old enough to leave the nest and take care of itself.

ovipositor  An egg-laying tube at the tip of the abdomen in insects.

palmate  Leaf veins that spread out from a central point at the base of the leaf, like fingers extended from the palm of the hand.

parallel Veins in a leaf that run side by side like train tracks, along the length of the leaf.

pattern  A repeating design; in animal tracking, an arrangement of footprints that is characteristic of a certain type of gait.

petiole  A slender stalk that attaches the leaf to the stem.

photosynthesis  The process by which plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make sugars and starches.

pinnate  The feather-like arrangement of veins in a leaf, with one main vein running through the middle and side veins extending to the edges.

place In animal tracking, the habitat where the tracks are found.

plate crystal  A flat, six-sided snow crystal; also called hexagonal plate.

platform nest  A fairly flat, shallow nest built on the ground or on a ledge, beam, or other flat surface.

pollen  Tiny grains, often yellow, produced on the stamens of flowers, that are needed for fertilization of the ovules, to produce seeds.

pollen cone  A small, papery cone on evergreens that contains pollen and falls apart easily, often growing at the tip of a branch.

pollination The transfer of pollen from one flower to another, or from pollen cones to seed cones in evergreens. Pollen is needed for the seeds to develop.

precocial  Baby birds with downy feathers that can walk and feed themselves soon after hatching.

print  A mark left by an animal’s foot, in snow or other soft substance.

roots  The generally underground portions of a plant that anchor it, draw nutrients from the soil and in some cases store food for the plant.

scales  The woody structures on an evergreen cone, arranged in a spiral around a central stalk, that hold the seeds.

scat  Animal droppings.

seed cone  A woody cone on an  evergreen that contains the seeds.

simple eyes  Light-sensitive areas on an insect’s head that can detect light and dark but not color.

simple leaf  A leaf with single blade.

sleet  Frozen raindrops; tiny balls of ice.

snow crystal  A single crystal of ice in which the molecules are arranged in a precise six-sided pattern.

snowflake  A general term that can mean a single snow crystal, or a group of snow crystals formed together or stuck together while falling.

sori  The structures that produce and contain the spores on a fern. Also called fruit dots.

spiral  Winding around a center pole or point like the scales in a conifer cone.

spore  In ferns, a structure that contains the beginnings of a new fern plant.

stellar crystal  A snow crystal with six arms radiating out from the center, like a star.

straddle  The distance from the outside edge of one footprint to the outside edge of a footprint on the opposite side of the body.

straight walker  An animal that leaves a single line of prints as it walks because it places the back feet into the prints made by the front feet.

stride  The distance between the tip of one footprint and the tip of the next print in line.

tadpole  The stage that hatches from the egg in the life cycle of a frog or toad, that lives in freshwater and breathes with gills. Also called pollywog.

thorax  In insects, the middle of three body sections, to which the wings and legs are attached.

waddler  A heavy-bodied animal with short legs that walks on flat feet, leaving paired tracks  consisting of a large back footprint next to a smaller front footprint.

warning coloration  Bright colors or striking patterns, like a skunk’s black and white stripes or an eft’s orange skin, that warn predators about an animal’s defense.

whorl  Three or more buds or shoots that are arranged in a circle around a twig, branch, or trunk.