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Turtle Conservation and Management Glossary

aestivate – to become dormant or limit activity during a certain season, such as the dry season

bask – to warm the body by exposing it to the sun; behavior of ectothermic animals that serves to regulate body temperature

carapace – the top, rounded part of a shelled animal

carnivorous – feeding on animal matter

carrion – carcass of a dead animal

Chelydridae – snapping turtle family; includes the snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle, which are large-bodied, aquatic turtles native to North and South America

Chihuahuan Desertscrub – a desert community found in southeastern Arizona characterized by more shrubs and grasses than cacti, with warm summers and fairly cold winters.  See photo here.

ciénegas – a wet, marshy area in desert ecosystems that is fed by a spring

diurnal – active during the day

disjunct – when two or more populations of a species are geographically separated

ectothermic – having a body temperature that is not internally regulated, but that is similar to that of the surrounding environment; commonly referred to as “cold-blooded”, the term refers to amphibians and reptiles, which regulate body temperature through basking and retreating to shelters

Endangered Species Act – An act created in 1973 which protects plant and animal species which are imperiled or in danger of becoming extinct.  Through the act, imperiled species are listed and protected as either “Threatened” or “Endangered”, a status based on the species’ rate of decline.    

ephemeral – existing only briefly; in ecology, it refers to bodies of water that exist only a short period, such as after rainfall or during snowmelt.

Emydidae – pond, marsh, and box turtle family; largest of the turtle families, it contains 82 species worldwide

foraging – searching for food

habitat – an ecological area occupied by a species; a habitat is often described in terms of its biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) characteristics, for example, a biotic factor of a habitat is its dominant vegetation

habitat fragmentation – a type of habitat loss often caused by road development, which confines wildlife populations to small, isolated patches of their original habitat

herbivorous – feeding on plant matter

herpetofauna – amphibians and reptiles

Kinosternidae – mud and musk turtle family; contains 23 species limited to North and South America

Madrean Evergreen Woodland – a forested community dominated by evergreen oaks, but also containing junipers and pine trees; characterized by mild winters, and warm wet summers.  See photo here.

Mojave Desertscrub – an extremely barren desert community characterized by scattered, low shrubs, such as creosote; unique to this community is the Joshua tree, a type of yucca.  Winters are cool and summers are very hot and dry.  In Arizona, Mohave desertscrub is found in the northwest corner of the state.  See photo here.

monsoon – distinct rainy season that the southwestern United States and Mexico experience from July-September; as much as 70% of the region’s rainfall occurs during the monsoon period

nares – the nostrils of a turtle

natural history – the study of a wild animal’s lifestyle, including its diet, reproduction, and habitat.

niche – the ecological role of a species in its environment

nocturnal – active during the night

omnivorous – eating plant and animal matter

plastron – the bottom, flattened part of a shelled animal

predator – an animal that preys upon and eats other animals

prey – an animal that is eaten by a predator

raptors – birds of prey; characterized by hooked beak, sharp talons, and keen eyesight

reticulations – network of criss-crossing lines

Salmonella – a bacteria found naturally in the feces of many animals, including turtles, that can cause food poisoning in humans when ingested

scute – one of the enlarged scales found on the carapace of turtles

Semidesert Grassland – a plant community found in southeastern Arizona characterized by grasses interspersed with some succulents, such as prickly-pear cactus and yucca.  See photo here.

sexual dimorphism – when males and females of a given species exhibit a difference in external characteristics, such as in coloration

Sonoran Desertscrub – a desert in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico that receives a relatively large amount of annual rainfall, with a distinct rainy season in the summer and a less dramatic rainy season in the winter.  Characterized in vegetation by the saguaro and cholla cacti, and palo verde, creosote, and mesquite.  See photos here.

stock tank – man-made sources of drinking water for domesticated animals, such as cattle; can provide important habitat for many desert species, including mud turtles

subspecies – a taxonomic rank below species; usually a set of subspecies exhibit slight differences (such as body color) caused by differences in distribution or habitat, but differences are not distinct enough to prevent breeding

terrestrial – living completely on land

Testudinidae – the family of turtles that includes tortoises, the completely terrestrial, herbivorous, turtles with high-domed shells

Trionychidae – softshell turtle family; composed of turtles that are characterized by a smooth, leathery shell, a long neck, and a snorkel-like snout

Tropical Deciduous Forest – a forest community that has distinct dry and rainy seasons, and is composed mainly of trees which lose drop their leaves during the dry season and many low, thorny species of trees.

tubercle - a small fleshy projection on the neck of some turtles

Vertebrate – any animal that has a backbone















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