CARTA Glossary

Displaying 101 - 200 of 860 defined words
Word Definition Related Vocabulary
Biologically available nitrogen

Types of nitrogen (nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium) that are required by all plants except legumes. Legumes are able to utilize atmospheric N2 due to their symbiotic association with rhizobia bacteria in their root nodules.

Biologically evolved preconditions (BEPs)

The necessary conditions for the manifestation of a behavioral or cognitive ability which, although having evolved via natural selection, do not constitute precursors of such abilities (e.g., human balance mechanisms are BEPs for learning how to snowboard, but they are not precursors or proto-forms of it).


The science of movement from a mechanical perspective; how muscles, bones, and other parts of the body work to produce movement or locomotion.


A form a locomotion involving only an animal’s rear, or hind, limbs for propulsion.

Birch Tar (or pitch)

A material produced through the dry distillation of birch bark and used as an adhesive for hafting. Neanderthals produced birch tar as early as 200 kya. Compare with Bitumen.

Bitumen (asphaltum or tar)

A form of petroleum, a naturally- occurring organic by-product of decomposed plants, that is waterproof and flammable. Prehistoric humans used bitumen as an adhesive for hafting points to spears and for many other tasks and tools. Compare with Birch Tar.

Blood group

The system comprising the totality of antigens on erythrocytes, endothelial and other cells types, secreted molecules in blood and bodily secretions. (This is why they are also known as histo-blood groups - histo being Greek for “tissue”)

Blood type

The specific pattern of reaction to antisera within a blood group.

Bonobos (Pan paniscus)

One of the two species comprising the genus, Pan, having branched from chimpanzees ~1 million years ago. Sometimes referred to as “pygmy chimpanzee.” Bonobos, compared to chimpanzees, are more gracile, have female social dominance, relatively long legs, pink lips, a dark face, a “tail-tuft” through adulthood, and parted long head hair. The species is omnivorous and inhabits primary and secondary forests, including seasonally inundated swamp forests. The bonobo is found in a 500,000 km2 (190,000 sq mi) area of the Congo Basin, only south of the Congo River, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Due to political instability, little field work in their natural habitat has been performed. Most behavioral knowledge is a result of studies of captive bonobos.

Brain organoid

An artificially grown in vitro brain model used for investigating brain development and neurological disease. Brain organoids are derived from induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells.

Bright white light (BWL)

A light-based therapy to treat both seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and non-seasonal depression.

Broca’s Area

A region in the frontal lobe of the dominant hemisphere (usually the left) of the human brain with functions linked to speech production.

Bucharest Early Intervention Project

A joint collaboration between researchers at Tulane University, University of Maryland, and Boston Children’s Hospital. The study, which began in the fall of 2000, seeks to examine the effects of early institutionalization on brain and behavior development, and to examine the impact of high quality foster care as an intervention for children who have been placed in institutions.

Background: Nicolae Ceausescu, general secretary of the Romanian communist party from 1965-89, instituted pro-natalist policies (banning abortion, outlawing contraception, and imposing a tax on families with fewer than five children) to increase the Romanian population in an effort to create more workers to bolster the economy. Correspondingly, the birth rate climbed but the poor were unable to afford larger families. It became acceptable to give infants and children to state-run child-rearing institutions, which spawned one of the largest per capita orphanage systems in history. By 1989, more than 170,000 Romanian children were living in institutions. Even ten years after the overthrow of Ceausescu, the rate of child abandonment did not diminish.

C3 Plants

C3 Plants: Plants that only use the Calvin-Benson Cycle for fixing CO2 from the air. Photosynthesis in these plants involves the reaction of CO2 with C5 RuBP (ribulose-1,5-biphosphate) to form two C3 phosphoglyceric acid molecules (3PGA) in the Calvin Cycle, making hexose carbohydrates. C3 plants originated during the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras, predating C4 plants. C3 plants thrive in moderate sunlight and temperature environments. The 12C/13C ratio of C3 plants is unique and can be determined from mass spectrometry. C3 plants have more 12C compared to C4 Plants, and have less 13C in their tissue compared to what naturally occurs in the atmosphere. e.g. Herbaceous plants, cool season grasses, tree leaves, flowers, stems, and fruits.

C4 Plants

C4 Plants: Plants that use a supplementary method of CO2 uptake to form a four-carbon sugar compound. Photosynthesis in these plants involves the reaction of CO2 with C3 phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) to form C4 oxaloacetatic acid (OAA), which is converted into malic acid. Malic acid is then broken down into CO2 (which enters the Calvin Cycle to form sugars and starch) and pyruvic acid (3-carbon molecule), which is then converted back to PEP. C4 plants are well adapted for habitats with high daytime temperatures and intense sunlight. The 12C/13C ratio of C4 plants is distinct and can be determined from masspectrometry. C4 plants have less 12C but more 13C compared to C3 Plants. The 13C in C4 tissue is still less than what naturally occurs in the atmosphere. e.g. Tropical grasses, including crabgrass, corn, sugarcane, sorghum.


A natural alkaloid and insecticide produced by several unrelated plant species (coffee, tea, and cacao). It also functions as a central nervous system stimulant that reversibly blocks the action of adenosine on its receptors.

Calvin-Benson Cycle

The set of chemical reactions that take place in chloroplasts of plants during photosynthesis. This light-independent process converts carbon atoms from the atmosphere into three-carbon sugars.

Canids (Canidae)

Carnivorous lineage that includes domestic dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and other extant and extinct dog-like mammals.


A type of cancer that starts in cells that make up the skin or the tissue lining organs, such as the liver or kidneys. Carcinomas are abnormal cells that divide without control and can spread to other parts of the body.


An acquired or hereditary disease of heart muscle resulting in weakening, enlargement, thickening, or rigidity of the heart.

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions of the heart that include diseased vessels, structural problems, and blood clots (sometimes used synonymously with Atherosclerosis).


An organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging.


A build-up of mucus in an airway or body cavity caused by inflammation such as that associated with respiratory illnesses.

CauCau of Chile

A young boy who had been neglected and abandoned by alcoholic parents in Chile. CauCau lived in a forest without human companionship starting around 1945 at age 7 or 9, until being “found” in 1947.

CD33 (Siglec-3)

A Siglec that functions as a transmembrane receptor on myeloid cells and some lymphoid cells.

CD33-related Siglecs

A subclass of Siglec receptors that rapidly evolved in humans and do not have true orthologues (counterparts identical by descent) in most mammalian species. For the CD33rSiglecs, it has been more difficult to translate studies in animal models to human conditions.

Central Aversion System

A neural circuit that regulates fearful, defensive and/or aggressive behavioral responses to aversive stimuli.

Central nervous system (CNS)

The majority of the nervous system that consists of the brain, spinal cord, retina, optic nerves, and olfactory epithelium. The CNS integrates sensory information and coordinates and influences the activity of the body in bilaterally symmetric animals (all multicellular animals except sponges and radially symmetric animals such as jellyfish).

Cerebral Cortex (Brain)

The outer layer of the cerebrum, composed of folded gray matter, and plays an important role in consciousness.

Cerebrum (Brain)

The largest part of the brain that contains the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, and olfactory bulb.

Cetaceans (Cetacea)

A clade of aquatic mammals consisting of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

Channel receptor

Proteins located in plasma membranes that form a passageway that can open or close to allow or stop the flow of particular ions across the membrane (see also receptor).

Chemical synapse

A biological junction between neurons where signals are sent from cell to the next via release of chemicals (neurotransmitters).


An infection caused by the Chikungunya virus, which is spread between people by Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti mosquitos. Symptoms include fever and joint pain. Chikungunya typically occurs in Africa and Asia, but recent outbreaks have been reported in Europe and the Americas.

Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV)

A RNA virus that belongs to the genus Alphavirus that is primarily transmitted by two species of Aedes mosquitoes, although the virus can also be transmitted from mother to child during delivery. Before 2013, the virus was found only in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific islands. In late 2013, outbreaks occurred for the first time in the Americas in the Caribbean Islands. Chikungunya (pronounced “chik-en-gun-ye”) comes from the Kimadonde verb meaning “bent over in pain” or “contorted.”

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

One of the two species comprising the genus, Pan, having branched from bonobos ~1 million years ago. Sometimes referred to as “common chimpanzees”. Native to sub-Saharan Africa, chimpanzees are found in and around the Congo Basin (north of the Congo River) and throughout West Africa. Chimpanzees are divided into four subspecies, based on appearance and distribution. Compared to bonobos, chimpanzees are somewhat larger, more aggressive, and exhibit male social dominance.


The green pigment that captures light energy and is essential for photosynthesis in cyanobacteria, algae, and plants.


A bacterial disease causing severe diarrhea and dehydration, usually spread in sewage-contaminated water.


A complex of DNA and proteins (histone and adaptor proteins) forming chromosomes.

Chromatin Accessibility

The idea that the 3D conformation of chromatin and the presence or absence of regulatory proteins (and their chemical modifications) interacting with histone proteins or directly with DNA can impact whether or not, and to what level, gene expression occurs.


Discrete strands of tightly packaged chromatin.

Chronic Mountain Sickness

A disease characterized loss of adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia. Signs include severe polycythemia (increased blood volume occupied by red blood cells) and hypoxemia (lack of oxygenation).

Cis (molecular interactions)

Receptors expressed on a cell surface that bind ligands on the same cell surface.


A group of organisms consisting of a common ancestor and all descendants on a particular lineage. Represents a single branch on the “tree of life.”


A branching diagram used to show hypothetical relations among groups of organisms and their hypothetical most common ancestors. It is not an evolutionary tree as it does not show how ancestors are related to descendants, nor does it show evolutionary distance or time.

Climate change

Long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns induced by natural phenomena or human activity.


Making a copy of an organism or sequence.
Organisms are cloned by moving an entire genome from a cell into an egg. DNA sequences are cloned by moving copies into a bacteria using a vector.

Clotting (blood)

The process by which soluble proteins in blood crosslink to cause a change from liquid to gel, forming a clot. Also known as coagulation.


Time since common ancestor.

Coalescent Theory

Models evolution backward in time to infer historical population size, mutation rate, allele age, and allele frequency change by selection and drift.

Coalitionary aggression

At least two or more individuals jointly direct aggression at one or more conspecific targets. In humans coalitionary aggression is socially organized.

Coalitionary violence

Collective violence or violence between groups of individuals.


A natural alkaloid and insecticide produced by the South American coca plant that also acts as a natural stimulant.


A type of short rod-shaped Gram-negative bacteria. Some species of coccobacillus cause disease in humans.

Codominant inheritance

A form of genomic inheritance in which both inherited alleles (one from each parent) are expressed and contribute to the phenotype.


A sequence of three nucleotides along a DNA or RNA chain encoding a single amino acid, and start or stop.


The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

Cognitive enhancers

Drugs that are used to improve memory, increase mental alertness, and concentration, and boost energy levels and wakefulness. E.g., amphetamines; nicotine; caffeine.

Cognitive Trade-off Hypothesis

As proposed by Tetsuro Matsuzawa, postulates that a trade-off between superior language facility at the expense of memory ability based on social life occurred during human evolution.  In comparison to chimpanzees, who possess superior short-term memory  abilities and no known language, humans de-emphasized short term memory for extraordinary language capacity, which may be one mechanism for increased collaboration and altruism in humans.

Combinatorial Phonology

A universal property of human language in which a set of basic, distinct units (phonemes, syllables, or hand shapes) can be combined in many different ways.


A relationship between organisms where one derives food or other benefits from the other without hurting or helping it.

Communicable (disease)

An illness that is transmittable from an infected person or animal to another person or animal through direct contact or indirectly via contaminated food, water, or a vector.

Comparative Method

A method of evolutionary analysis that uses comparisons across independently evolved species, as a means for studying historical and physical constraints.


Capability for effective function in the environment, potential or manifested.

Complex Trait

A phenotypic trait with variability influenced by numerous genes (each with small effects).


The principle governing the combination of meaningful linguistic elements into higher order units of meaning. Compositionality guarantees that the meaning of the whole will be determined by the meaning of its parts and rules used to combine them (Kluender, 2020).


A disease or physical abnormality present from birth.


A comprehensive map of neural connections in the brain.


The waking state and awareness of existence.


Members of the same species.

Contagious (disease)

Infectious diseases that can be spread from organism to organism by direct or indirect contact. Contagious disease is a subset of communicable, infectious, and transmissible.

Contemplative neuroscience

A branch of neuroscience that studies the effects of meditation and other forms of contemplation.

Continuity (aka Phyletic Gradualism)

An evolutionary model in which change occurs gradually over time. Compare with Punctuated Equilibrium.

Control Group

A group of individuals in a medical study who receive either no treatment or the standard treatment, which is compared against a group who receive the treatment being studied.

Cooperative Breeding

A social system in which parents and other individuals within the group provide care for offspring.

Copy number variation (CNV)

A phenomenon in which sections of the genome are repeated on the same or different chromosome and the number of repeats in the genome varies between individuals in the human population. Such repeats can include functional genes.

Coronary Thrombosis

Blockage of blood flow to the heart, caused by atherosclerosis and blood clotting in a coronary artery. The most common kind of heart attack.


A member of the large, single-stranded RNA virus family (Coronaviridae) named for their ring (“crown”) shape. They are also characterized by a fatty membrane envelope that is covered with club-shaped spike glycoproteins. Coronaviruses are known to infect many mammals (including us humans) and birds. Different coronaviruses are responsible for causing MERS, SARS, and COVID-19.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

An infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and then spread globally, resulting in a pandemic. Common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, sputum production, and muscle and joint pains, and loss of smell and taste. Severe cases may progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), multi-organ failure, septic shock, and blood clots. Spread of the virus occurs between people during close contact, most often via small droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, and talking. Less commonly, people may become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their face.

Cortical Fields

A segment of the cerebral cortex that carries out a given function.


A class of steroid hormones. E.g., cortisol.

Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF)

A neuropeptide that regulates the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis response, a major neuroendocrine system.

Corvids (Corvidae)

The family of stout-billed passerine birds (an order of birds characterized by an arrangement of toes with three forward and one backward to facilitate perching) including the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcrackers.

Corvus brachyrhynchos

The American crow.

Cost of transport

How much energy it takes to move from point A to point B.


The number of reads for a given locus.

CpG site

Locus where a cytosine nucleotide is followed by guanine nucleotide in the linear sequence of bases. Cytosines in CpG dinucleotides can be methylated to form 5-methyl cytosine, a common epigenetic mark.

Cranial Neural Crest Cells Cells that become the structures of the endocranium and face.

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. A method that can mutate a specified locus.


Behavior and norms that are shared, learned, and socially transmitted.

Cumulative Cooperative Culture

In human culture, the accumulation of cultural modifications over time (“ratchet effect”) resulting from social learning, active teaching, social motivations for conformity, and normative sanctions against non-conformity.


A phylum of photosynthetic Gram-negative bacteria.

Cytidine monophospho-N-acetylneuraminic acid hydroxylase (Cmah) enzyme

An enzyme encoded by the CMAH gene that modifies sialic acids in most mammals by modifying N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) into N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc). The enzyme modifies sialic acid in its sugar nucleotide form (CMP-Neu5Ac to CMP-Neu5Gc).

Cytidine monophospho-N-acetylneuraminic acid hydroxylase (CMAH) gene

The human lineage lost the function of the CMAH gene over 2 million years ago that caused human cells to both lack Neu5Gc and carry an excess of Neu5Ac.

Cytokine “Storm”

A severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. Signs and symptoms include high fever, inflammation, severe fatigue, and nausea. This may be severe or even life- threatening, leading to multiple organ failure.


A broad and loose category of small proteins secreted by certain cells of the immune system and are important in cell signaling and have an effect on other cells.

Daily energy expenditure

Total number of calories burned in a day.

Daughter Neuron

Resulting cell(s) formed when neural stem cells or progenitor cells undergo cellular division.

de Novo

A Latin adverb meaning “from the new.” A new genetic variant that is the result of a mutation in a germ cell (egg or sperm) of one of the parents, or a variant that arises in the fertilized egg during embryogenesis. (See Novel)

Dead zones

Areas of bodies of water that are depleted of oxygen, rendering them uninhabitable by aquatic life. Agricultural runoff rich in nitrogen and phosphorus (limiting nutrients) are prime culprits. These nutrients contribute to eutrophication large blooms of algae which then die and are consumed by bacteria along with oxygen in the water.