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Glossary
What does that word mean?

The words used to describe ungulates and their habits can be complex and a bit unusual - terminology is often the most confusing part of learning about something new.  This section provides definitions of some unusual words used in the Ultimate Ungulate page, hopefully allowing even the most complex scientific language to be understood.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A
Allopatric
Occurring in separate geographic areas which do not overlap.
Ancestral
Pertaining to characters which resemble those of earlier forms (sometimes "primitive" is used incorrectly as a synonym).
Antler
One of a pair of deciduous (non-permanent) bony structures on the heads of ungulates from the family Cervidae.  Antlers are almost always branched, and grow from pedicels on the frontal bones.  They are generally shed and regrown every year.
Artiodactyl
An even-toed ungulate; a (hoofed) member of the order Cetartiodactyla.  This term originated from the former ungulate order Artiodactyla (now Cetartiodactyla due to the inclusion of whales and dolphins [Cetacea]). "Artiodactyl" is still used to refer to the hoofed members of this combined order.
 
B
Brachyodont
A descriptive term for teeth with low crowns, typical of ungulates with a browsing diet.
Browser
A herbivore which eats primarily leaves, shoots, twigs of trees, bushes, forbs, and other vegetation which is up off the ground.
 
C
Canine
An elongated, single-rooted and single-cusped tooth posterior to the incisors and anterior to the premolars.
Caudal
Pertaining to, or towards, the tail.
Character
A feature of an animal that can be described, measured, and communicated between scientists.
Cheek teeth
The premolars and molars in mammals (typically flat, grinding teeth in ungulates).
Convergent evolution
The evolution of similar looking or similar functioning structures in unrelated animals.
Cranial
Pertaining to, or towards, the head.
Crepuscular
Active primarily around dawn and dusk.
Cursorial
Adapted for running.
 
D
Dental formula
A shorthand notation for the number of teeth on one side of the skull.  I 1/2 indicates one upper incisor and two incisors on the lower jaw.  C, P, and  M are used to denote canines, premolars, and molars respectively.  Since the formula is for only one side of the jaw, one must multiply by two to get the total number of teeth.  For example, the dental formula of musk deer is written as I 0/3, C 1/1, P 3/3, M 3/3 x 2 = 34.
Dentition
The number and types of teeth present in any given species.
Dewclaw
The reduced hooves found on the lateral digits of some 'artiodactyls'.
Digitigrade
A foot posture in which the digits are in contact with the ground, but not the sole or heel of the foot.
Dimorphism
The existence two distinct forms of a single species that differ in one or more characteristics, such as coloration, size, or shape.
Diurnal
Active primarily during the daylight hours.
Dorsal
Pertaining to the back.
 
E
Ecology
The scientific study of the interactions between different species of organisms, and between organisms and their environment.
Endemic
Referring to a species which is native to a single geographic region and is found nowhere else.
Eocene
The Eocene Epoch is a period of geologic time 54-38 million years ago.  Part of the Tertiary Period.
Estrus
The period of time which a female mammal is receptive to breeding.
Extant
Currently in existence.
Extinct
No longer living or existing.
 
F
Feral
Used to refer to animals which have become wild in an area outside of their natural range, usually due to human forces.
Folivore
An animal that eats mainly leaves (i.e., one that is "folivorous").
Frugivore
An animal that eats mainly fruit (i.e., one that is "frugivorous").
 
G
Genus
The major taxonomic category between family and species, generally consisting of a group of species exhibiting similar characteristics.
Gestation
The duration of pregnancy; the length of time a female mammal bears her young within her uterus.
Graminivore
An animal that eats mainly grass (i.e., one that is "graminivorous").
Grazer
An animal which feeds on growing grass or other herbage on the ground.
 
H
Harem
A social structure whereby several females associate and breed with a single male.
Herbivore
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants (i.e., one that is "herbivorous").
Home range
The area in which an animal or group spends the majority of its time.
Hoof
The hard, keratinized (horny) sheath covering the toes or lower part of the foot of certain mammals (the ungulates), homologous to human fingernails.
Horn
One of a pair of hard, permanent structures on the frontal bones of the head in members of the family Bovidae.  True horns consist of a bony core covered with a sheath of keratinous material.  'Horn' is also used to refer to the keratinous growth on the midline of the nose of the Rhinocerotidae, although these are not true horns due to the lack of a bony core.
Hypsodont
A descriptive term for teeth with high crowns, a feature typically found in grazing mammals.
 
I
Incisor
The teeth at the front of the mouth, rooted in the premaxilla/incisive (upper) and dentary (lower) bones, often used for cropping food prior to its movement into the mouth.
Insectivore
An animal which eats primarily insects (i.e., one that is "insectivorous").
 
L
Lactation
A process unique to mammals in which glands of females secrete milk to feed their offspring after birth.
Lateral
Pertaining to the side.
Lek
A communal courtship arena which is used by several males to try to attract a female for mating.
 
M
Mammae
The milk producing glands of mammals.
Matriarchal
Pertaining to a social structure in which the majority of activities and behaviors are centered around a single dominant female.
Mesaxonic
A type of foot structure in which the plane of symmetry of the foot passes through the third (middle) digit.
Migration
Movement, generally seasonal in timing, from one region to another, often for the purpose of feeding and/or breeding.
Miocene
The Miocene Epoch is a period of geologic time 24-5 million years ago.  Part of the Tertiary Period.
Molar
A cheek tooth located at the rear of the mouth behind the premolars, often adapted for grinding.
Monogamous
Pertaining to a mating system in which a a single male and a single female breed and remain together to raise the offspring of at least one litter.
Morphology
Referring to the form and structure of an animal.
 
N
Nocturnal
Active primarily at night.
 
O
Oligocene
The Oligocene Epoch is a period of geologic time 38-24 million years ago.  Part of the Tertiary Period.
Omnivore
An animal which eats both plant and animal matter as a regular part of the diet (i.e., one that is "omnivorous").
Ossicone
The skin-covered bony protrusion found on the heads of members of the family Giraffidae.
 
P
Paraxonic
A type of foot structure in which the axis of the foot passes between the similarly-sized third and fourth digits.
Pedicel
The enlargement of the frontal bone of the skull, forming a supporting structure from which an antler will grow.
Perissodactyl
An odd-toed ungulate; a member of the order Perissodactyla.
Phylogeny
A classification or relationship based on the closeness of evolutionary descent.
Plantigrade
A foot posture in which the full length of their foot, including podials, metapodials, and 'heel', touches the ground.
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene Epoch is a period of geologic time 1.8 million years ago to 11,000 years ago.  The first part of the Quaternary Period, and often known as "the last Ice Age".
Pliocene
The Pliocene Epoch is a period of geologic time 5-1.8 million years ago.  The last epoch in the Tertiary Period.
Premolar
The front cheek teeth, anterior to the molars and posterior to the canines.  Often adapted for grinding.
 
R
Range
The geographical area in which an organism is found.
Rut
A period of concentrated mating; the mating season.  Often used with reference to males.
 
S
Scientific name
Used in scientific writings to reduce confusion of multiple common names, the scientific name (or Latin name) of an animal is two words long; consisting of the genus and species names.  The entire name is written in italics (or underlined if italics are not available), with the genus capitalized.  For example, the scientific name of the lesser kudu is Tragelaphus imberbis.  Subspecies names (if applicable) are added to the end of the name, forming a trinomial, e.g. Tragelaphus imberbis australis.
Sedentary
Remaining in the same space; generally used for non-migratory animals with a small home range.
Species
The major taxonomic subdivision of a genus or subgenus.  Species are regarded as the basic category of biological classification, composed of related individuals that resemble one another.
Subspecies
A uniform, genetically distinct population of a species, often in a specific geographic region.
Subunguis
The softer ventral plate of a hoof or nail.
Sympatric
Occurring in the same or overlapping geographical areas.
 
T
Territory
An area defended from intruders by an individual or group.
Type locality
The location from which the first described specimen of a species/subspecies was collected.
 
U
Ungulate
A mammal with hooves.
Unguis
The hard keratinous or scale-like structure of a hoof or nail.
Unguligrade
Describing animals that walk on tiptoe, with their weight supported by hooves.
 
V
Ventral
Pertaining to, or towards, the belly.
Vertebrate
Any one of a group on animals with a backbone; a member of the subphylum Vertebrata.
Vestigial
Describing a characteristic which has receded from a useful structure in an ancestral form, and has little or no current use.
 
W
Weaning
The period of time when a young mammal stops suckling and begins to use other food sources.