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Rainforest Glossary
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

Click on an underlined word for more information on that subject.
If the rainforest term you are looking for is not in the dictionary, please e-mail us.

S


SAPROPHYTE

A saprophyte is a plant that obtains nutrition from dead and decaying plant or animal tissue. Most saprophytes do not produce chlorophyll, and therefore need another source of energy. Most fungi and a few flowering plants (like some orchids and Indian pipe) are saprophytic.

SAMAUMA TREE

(pronounced sa-ma-oo-ma)The Samaúma tree (Eriodendron samauma), sometimes called the "Queen of the Forest" or the silk-cotton tree, is a large, rainforest tree that grows to be over 50 m tall. It has an unusual lower trunk/roots that come off the main trunk in large, triangular planes. The soft-wood timber of this tree is pinkish-white. Many Samauma trees in the rainforest are being harvested to make inexpensive plywood.


SATURN BUTTERFLY

The Saturn Butterfly (Zeuxidia amethystus) has a wingspan of about 3.9-4.3 inches (10-11cm) and lives in the shady forest understory. The female is paler than the male (above). The Saturn Butterfly is found in Malaysia, Borneo, the Philippines, Burma, and Sumatra. It was named by Butler in 1865. Classification: Family Nymphalidae (Subfamily Morphinae).

SCAPULA

The scapula is the shoulder bone.


SCARLET MACAW

A brilliantly-colored parrot from Central and South American rain forests.

SCAVENGER

Scavengers are animals that eat dead animals that they did not kill themselves. Most meat-eaters are scavengers. Hyenas are modern-day scavengers.

SCENT SCALES

Scent scales are wing scales on butterflies and moths that release pheromones. Only males have scent scales. The pheromones attract females of the species

SCLERITE

Sclerites are the individual chitinous plates which make up the exoskeleton of arthropods.

SCLERENCHYMA

Sclerenchyma is a supportive and protective tissue found in plants. Sclerenchyma is composed of hard, thick, dry cells.

SCLEROPHYLL FOREST

A sclerophyll forest is one in which the crowns of the trees form a continuous canopy. The word scherophyll means "hard leaf" in Greek. Sclerophyll forests are often found in Australia - Eucalyptus trees often form a sclerophyll forest. There are wet (over 30 m tall) and dry (10 - 30 tall) sclerophyll forests

SCLEROPHYLLOUS PLANTS

Sclerophyllous plants are small plants that have hard, thickened leaves and have a relatively short distance along the stem between the leaves (short internodes). Sclerophyllous plants are often from dry areas. The word scherophyll means "hard leaf" in Greek.

SCLEROTIC RING

A sclerotic ring is a ring of bones found in some animals that supported the eye. When present, the sclerotic ring is located in the orbit (the eye hole of the skull). Some dinosaurs had sclerotic rings.

SECONDARY COMPOUND

A secondary compound is a chemical manufactured by a plant that protects it.

SECONDARY FOREST

A secondary forest (also known as a jungle) is a forest whose canopy trees have been logged (cut), causing lush growth on the forest floor.

SEDIMENT

Sediment is any material deposited by wind or water, like rocks and sand.

SEDIMENTARY ROCK

Sedimentary rock is rock that has formed from sediment. Most fossils are found sedimentary rock.

SEED DISPERSER

A seed disperser is an animal that eats seeds (usually contained in fruit) but does not harm the seed. The seed is excreted in the stool, and the seed is spread away from the parent plant.

SEED PREDATOR

A seed predator is an animal that eats and destroy seeds instead of eating the fruit and leaving the seed or dispersing the seed in the stool. Parrots are seed predators. Seed predators limit the number of viable seeds.

SERRATED

Serrated means having a jagged edge that is good for sawing. Serrated teeth are good for cutting through flesh.


SERVAL

A long-legged African wild cat.

SETAE

(singular seta) Tactile setae are long hairs that butterflies and moths use to sense touch. These hairs are attached to nerve cells, and relay information about touch to the insect's brain. Setae grow through holes in the pinaculum of the exoskeleton.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM

Sexual dimorphism is the physical differences between the males and females of a species.

SHIFTING CULTIVATION

Shifting cultivation is a type of farming in which fields are used for a few years, and are then left to grow in a wild state for many years. This allows the soil to recover and become rich and fertile again.


SHRIMP

Shrimp are small, bottom-dwelling crustaceans with a translucent exoskeleton.

SHRUB LAYER

The shrub layer is the layer of the rainforest above the floor but under the canopy.


SIAMANG

The siamang is a rare, black, long-armed ape.

SILT

Silt is fine dirt (soil or sand) that is suspended in water.

SILTATION

Siltation is the build-up of silt that is suspended in rivers or other bodies of water.

SIMPLE EYE

A simple eye detects light and dark; it is called an ocellus. Butterfly and moth larva have simple eyes only; adults have simple eyes plus compound eyes.

SKELETON

A skeleton is the supporting structure of an animal's body. Dinosaur skeletons were made of bones and cartilage.

SKIPPER

Skippers (family Hesperiidae) are drab-colored, moth-like butterflies that are distinguished by the hook at the end of their antennae (instead of a club, like other butterflies have). These antennae are also farther apart at the base than other butterflies. There are about 2,000 different species of Skippers. They fly in a darting fashion (hence their name) and hold their wings in a moth-like fashion when at rest. The Australian Skipper also has a humeral lobe (a frenulum-like projection on its hind wing which holds the fore wings and hind wings together during flight).
T. rex skull
SKULL

The skull is the bony structure of the head in some animals that encloses the brain and supports the jaws.

SLASH-AND-BURN FARMING

Slash-and-burn farming is a destructive type of agriculture in which the farmer burns down a new portion of the rainforest every few years in order to cultivate a crop.


SLOTH

The sloth is a slow-moving mammal that lives in trees. Sloths spend most of their lives hanging upside-down from tree branches; they eat, sleep, mate, and give birth upside-down in the trees. They hold onto tree branches with strong, curved claws that are on each of their four feet. These plant-eaters are more active at night; they eat leaves, tender young shoots, and fruit. Sloths have a thick brown (and slightly-greenish) fur coat and are about the size of a cat (roughly 2 feet = 61 cm long). Their coloration and their slow actions make them almost disappear in the forest canopy. Some sloths have colonies of green algae encrusting their fur, both adding to the camouflage effect and providing some nutrients to the sloths, who lick the algae. These mostly-quiet mammals live in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America. Sloths may live 10-20 years in the wild. Sloths are hunted by jaguars, eagles, and man. Classification: Class Mammalia, Order Xenarthra, Family Bradypodidae and Megalonychidae.


SLUG

The slug is an invertebrate animal that lives in moist areas.

SMALL-EARED ZORRO

The small-eared zorro is a dog-like fox from South American rainforests.


SNAKE

A snake is a reptile with no legs. It has skin with scales. There are many snakes in rainforests.

SOLAR RADIATION

Solar radiation is the heat and light that comes from the sun.


SPECTACLED CAIMAN

The Spectacled Caiman is a common meat-eating reptile from fresh water habitats in South and Central America.


SPIDER

Spiders have eight legs.

SPINNERET

A spinneret is a tube-like structure on a larva's head that contains the spinning apparatus of the larva (caterpillar). The caterpillar draws silk (which is made in the salivary glands) from a tube in the spinneret. The silk dries when exposed to the air. Caterpillars use this silk to support themselves and to make webs and cocoons.

SPIRACLE

A spiracle is one of an insect's breathing pores. They are usually located on the thorax and abdomen.

STAGE

A stage is one of the distinct periods of an insect's life cycle. Butterflies and moths have four life stages, including egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

STEMMA

A stemma (pl. stemmata) is a simple eye in some insect larvae. It is also called a lateral ocellus.

STOMA

Stomata are pores (or openings) in plants' leaves. A stoma can open and close, controlling the loss of water from the plant.

STRANGLER

A strangler is a vine that grows parasitically in a tree, eventually killing the tree (the host).

STRATA

The strata (singular=stratum) are the different layers of a rainforest. Different animals and plants live in different parts of the rainforest. Scientists divide the rainforest into strata (zones) based on the living environment. Starting at the top, the strata are: emergents, canopy, understory, and forest floor.

SUCKER ROOT

A sucker root is a root that emerges from the ground and sends up a shoot which supports the plant.


SUGAR GLIDER

This small marsupial (also known as the lesser flying phalanger) glides from tree to tree in Australia and nearby islands.

SUSTAINABLE USE

Sustainable use is the judicious use of natural resources without destroying them.
tiger swallowtail

SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY

Swallowtail butterflies (family Papilionidae) are strong fliers with three fully developed pairs of legs. Many swallowtails have distinctive tailed wings (hence the family name). They lay spherical eggs. These butterflies are found from the tropics to more temperate regions.

SYMBIOSIS

Symbiosis is a situation in which two dissimilar organisms live together. There are many types of symbiosis, including mutualism (in which both organisms benefit), commensalism (in which one organism benefits and the other is not affected), or parasitism (in which one organism benefits at the other organism's expense). Symbiosis used to be defined as a situation in which two dissimilar organisms live together to the benefit of both - this is now called mutualism. The word symbiosis means "living together"" in Greek.

SYNAPSID

Synapsids are animals that are distinguished by having a skull with an extra low opening behind the eyes; this opening gave these animals stronger jaw muscles and jaws (the jaw muscles were anchored to the skull opening). Synapsids include the mammals, and extinct animals such as Dimetrodon. The pelycosaurs were early synapsids; later synapsids were the therapsids, cynodonts and dicynodonts (from the late Permian), leading to the mammals. With time, the synapsid gait became more upright and tail length decreased.

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Rainforest Glossary
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

Click on an underlined word for more information on that subject.
If the rainforest term you are looking for is not in the dictionary, please e-mail us.

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