Structure and Function – Vocabulary for Children

abdomen  The back end of a spider or insect, the body section behind the thorax (or cephalothorax in spiders).

adaptation  An inherited feature of a plant or animal’s body, or the way it behaves, that helps it to survive.

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.

armor  A tough, protective covering for defense against predators.

asymmetrical  Lop-sided, one side being different in some way from the other.

ballooning  A method that baby spiders use to travel, spinning out a very fine thread of silk and letting the wind carry them along.

barbs  The thin projections from the shaft of a feather that zip together to form the vane.

barbules  The tiny hooks on the barbs of a feather that hook or “zip” together with neighboring barbs to give the feather a flat surface.

bark  The tough outer covering of a tree’s trunk, branches, and twigs.

beak  The jaws of a bird with their horny covering. Also called a “bill.”

beehive  The nest of a honeybee colony.

birds of prey  Birds that are carnivores and use their feet to catch other animals.

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

branch  A part of the tree that grows outward from the main trunk.

cambium  A very thin layer of tissue between the inner bark and the sapwood, that builds new wood and new bark.

camouflage  Colors or patterns that blend in with the background.

canine teeth  Long, pointy, conical teeth, used for killing prey and for ripping and tearing the flesh.

carnivore  An animal that eats meat.

cell The hexagon-shaped compartments in a honeycomb where bees store honey and pollen, and where the young are raised.

cephalothorax  The front body section of a spider that is both head and thorax, where the eyes, mouthparts,and all the legs are found.

chelicerae  In spiders, the jaws tipped with fangs that it uses to pierce its prey.

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

cobweb   A messy, tangled spider web.

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

contour feather  One of the body-covering feathers in a bird that give it its shape, color and patterns.

crepuscular  Active at dawn and dusk.

dam  A construction that blocks the flow of a stream so that water a pond forms behind it.

defense Something that gives a plant or animal protection, such as porcupine quills or rose thorns.

diurnal  Active in the daytime.

downy feather  One of the very fluffy feathers that grow close to a bird’s body and serve as insulation.

dragline  A strand of silk that a spider lets out behind it wherever it goes, as a safety measure.

drone  A male honeybee.

enamel  The hard outer surface of teeth; usually a dark orange color on the incisors of beavers and other rodents.

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

facial disk  The circular arrangement of feathers on owls’ faces that helps funnel sounds to the ears.

fangs  In spiders, the structures on the ends of the jaws that are used to inject venom into the prey.

feather  One of the flat, light-weight structures that cover a bird’s body; found only in birds.

flight feather  A feather of the wing or tail.

flower head  A cluster of small flowers at the top of a stem, sometimes grouped into a single blossom as in dandelions, or more spread out as in goldenrods.

forage  To look for food.

funnel web   A spider web with a finely-woven flat platform and a tunnel in which the spider hides.

grain  The seeds of grass plants, including many of the crops we depend on like wheat, rye, barley, rice, corn, oats and others.

grass  A non-woody plant that has a jointed stem, long narrow leaves, and wind-pollinated flowers.

guard hairs  The long, sleek, outer fur of an animal like a beaver or deer, that protect the fur underneath from getting wet and dirty.

habitat  The place where a plant or animal naturally lives, and where it can get what it needs to survive.

heartwood  Wood at the center of the tree trunk that is very hard and gives strength to the tree.

herbivore  An animal that eats plants.

hexagon  A geometric shape with six equal sides.

honey stomach  A special pouch inside the honeybee’s body for carrying nectar back to the hive.

honeycomb  The wax structure built by honeybees in a hive, made up of hexagon-shaped cells where the larvae grow and honey is stored.

incisors  The chisel-shaped front teeth used for nipping or gnawing.

inner bark  A ring of living wood under the bark that carries food made in the leaves to all the parts of the tree. Also called phloem.

insectivore  An animal that eats insects.

jaws The bones of the skull that hold the teeth and form the framework of the mouth. In spiders, the mouthparts (chelicerae) tipped with fangs.

larva  In insects with complete metamorphosis, the worm-like stage that hatches from the egg, and that does most of the eating and growing.

leaf  The thin, flat, green structures that grow from branches and stems of plants, and make food by photosynthesis.

lodge  A home built by a beaver family out of sticks and mud.

mammal  A warm-blooded animalthat nurses its young and has fur or hair on its body.

molars  The largest teeth, farthest back in the jaw, used to shear off or grind food.

molt  In insects, to shed the outer body covering and form a new, larger one. In birds, to lose the worn out feathers and grow new ones.

nectar  A sweet, sugary liquid made by flowers to attract pollinators; used by honeybees to make honey.

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

nocturnal  Active in the nighttime.

node  The hard, thickened places on a grass stem where the leaves attach.

omnivore  An animal that eats both meat and plants.

orb web   A wheel-shaped spider web with a spiral of sticky threads to catch prey.

owl call  Special sounds made by owls to communicate with each other, especially to defend a territory or advertise for a mate.

owl pellet  In owls, a lump of indigestible animal parts that it coughs up daily, containing the bones, skulls, fur, feathers, etc., of its prey.

pedipalps  Leg-like parts on spiders that are found between the jaws and the first real legs, used as sense organs and for wrapping prey.

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

poison  A substance that can injure or kill a plant or animal.

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

pollen basket  A flattened area on the hind leg of a honeybee for carrying pollen, with hairs that help to hold it in place.

pollinator  An insect or other animal that, like honeybees, carries pollen from one flower to another.

predator  An animal that hunts other animals for food.

preening  In birds, using the beak and sometimes feet to clean and arrange the feathers, spread oil on them, and zip the barbs together.

premolars  Small molars with two humps, behind the canines and just before the first molars, used for holding and tearing.

prey  An animal that is hunted by other animals for food.

proboscis  In honeybees and some other insects, the tube-like mouthparts used to suck up nectar from flowers. 

push-ups  In muskrats, piles of plants stacked up above holes in the ice that they can get to for feeding during the winter.

queen bee  The large female honeybee that is the mother of all the other bees in the hive.

quill  The hollow, tapered end of a feather shaft, where it attaches to the skin, and below the first barbs. Also, the sharp, stiff spines that cover a porcupine’s body, for protection from predators.

raptor  A bird of prey, like hawks or eagles.

rhizome  In grass plants, underground stems that spread sideways and can put down roots to start a new grass plant.

rodent  A gnawing mammal, with front teeth that grow constantly; includes mice, rats, squirrels, porcupines, beavers, muskrats, woodchucks and many others.

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

sapling  A young tree with a slender trunk.

sapwood  Wood in the trunk of the tree that transports water and nutrients from the roots to the branches. Also called xylem.

seed  In a flowering plant’s life cycle, a small structure from which a new plant can grow. Includes the tiny beginnings of a new plant and a food supply, encased in a protective covering.

seed head  The dried flower that contains the seeds.

shaft  The central stem of a feather.

sheath  The part of the grass leaf that wraps around the stem.

sheet web   A flat platform or cupped web from which the spider often hangs, upside-down, underneath.

silk  The thin, incredibly strong and elastic fibers made by spiders and some caterpillars.

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

skull  The bones of an animal’s head.

spiderling  A tiny, newly-hatched spider.

spinnerets  In spiders, the spout-like structures on the abdomen that produce the silk.

stem  The main stalk of a plant that supports the leaves, branches and flowers.

stinger  A slender pointed structure on the abdomen of bees and other insects, used to pierce the skin of a foe and inject a poison.

stolon  In grass plants, stems that grow horizontally on top of the ground and can put down roots to start a new plant.

symmetrical  One side is the same as the other.

talons  The sharp, hooked claws on the toes of a bird of prey.

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

thorn  A stiff, sharp-pointed projection usually on the stem or branches of a plant.

trunk  The bark-covered, tall, woody stem of a tree.

twig  A thin woody shoot at the tip of a branch on a tree or shrub.

undercoat  The woolly fur or downy feathers that grow close to the skin in some animals.

valves  Special flaps that close off the ear, nose and throat of a beaver when it is underwater.

vane  The flat part of a feather, on either side of the shaft, made up of thin, parallel barbs.

venom  A poison produced by an animal.

venomous  Having poison, like a rattlesnake.

warning  Showing that you mean to do harm.

wax glands  In honey bees, structures in the abdomen that make the wax that is used for building the comb and capping the cells.

wind-pollinated  A plant that has very light-weight pollen that is carried by the wind instead of by insects.

worker bee  Small female bees in a honeybee colony that do the work of the hive.