CARTA Glossary

Displaying 601 - 700 of 885 defined words
Word Definition Related Vocabulary
Oldupai Gorge (Olduvai)

A 48km ravine in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania that was occupied by hominins such as Homo habilis (1.9 mya) and Zinjanthropus (Australopithecus) boisei (1.8 mya). Today, Oldupai Gorge is an important paleoanthropological site and has been under excavation since 1913, most famously by Mary and Louis Leakey. “Oldupai” is the Maasai word for “the place of the wild sisal.”

Olfactory Bulb (Brain)

A neural structure of the vertebrate forebrain involved in sense of smell.

Oligodendrocytes (Brain)

A type of neuroglia that supports and insulates axons in the central nervous system of some vertebrates.


An organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet of plant, animal, and fungal origin.


The origin and development of an organism (from fertilization of the egg to the organism’s mature form). Can also refer to the study of an organism’s lifespan.

Operational sex ratio (OSR)

The ratio of fertile males to fertile females that are ready to mate.

Optimism Bias

An almost universally human cognitive bias that seems to cause individuals to believe that they are at less risk of experiencing a negative event and more likely to experience a positive outcome compared to other people.


A biological technique that involves the use of light to control gene expression and cellular function in living tissue, typically neurons, that have been genetically modified to express light-sensitive ion channels.

Organoid Cell/tissue culture in vitro that aims to mimic organ structure and function.

A minority ethnic group of central Mexico during the 16th century CE.

Out of Africa

A hypothesis proposing the geographic origins of the genus Homo in Africa and migration of anatomically modern humans. These anatomically modern humans would have completely replaced the archaic human populations (Neanderthals, Denisovans, etc.) that had previously left Africa. This hypothesis emphasizes the African origin of our species but allows for the possibility of minor local contributions from archaic populations.

Outer Radial Glia

Found in the outer subventricular zone of the neocortex, outer radial glia preferentially express genes related to extracellular matrix formation, migration, and stemness.

Outer Subventricular Zone A uniquely structured germinal zone that generates the expanded primate supragranular layers.

The timepoint of the menstrual cycle involving the release of an egg from an ovary.

Pair bond

The formation of long-lasting bonds between two individuals.

Paired receptors

Related membrane proteins that have similar extracellular appearance but opposite signaling functions and are found in pairs or clusters primarily on immune cells.


A broad prehistoric period during which stone was used to make tools and weapons and is synonymous with Stone Age. During the paleolithic, hunting and gathering (foraging) was the primary subsistence method. The period ended with a flourishing of culture, not only in the manufacture of new stone (and bone tools) and other innovations (such spear thrower, bow and arrow, eyed needle, fishing implements), but also the development of splendid cave art paintings and engravings. Subdivisions:

  • Lower Paleolithic: ~3.4 mya - 300 kya.
  • Middle Paleolithic: Consists of use of prepared cores (i.e. Levallois Technique) and hafted tools and weapons. ~300 - 30 kya.
  • Upper Paleolithic: Coincides with behavioral modernity and predates the advent of agriculture. Artifacts include finely crafted stone blades and bone and antler tools, such as harpoons and needles. ~50 - 10 kya.

An epidemic that has spread across regions, including multiple continents or worldwide.

Parallel architecture

A theory of the mental representations (or “data structures”) involved in the language faculty that are organized by phonology, syntax, and semantics.


A genus of extinct bipedal hominins dating to ~ 2.6 mya to 1.1 mya that lived throughout eastern and south Africa. Their robust cranialdental anatomy suggests an adaptation to a diet of tough vegetation. Possible tool use is indicated by hands adapted for precision grasping. They probably descended from the gracile australopithecine hominids (Australopithecus) ~2.7 million years ago, hence their alternative name, robust australopithecine, and ongoing debate on genus.


An organism that lives on or in a host organism at the expense of the host.


A close relationship between two organisms where one benefits at the expense of the other.

Parental Behavior

Any behavior of a member of a species toward an immature conspecific that increases the likelihood that the immature organism will survive to maturity.

Parental conflict

Evolutionary conflict between the sexes arising from differences in optimal parental investment in offspring across a lifetime.

Parental effort

The portion of reproductive effort in form of parenting (protection, feeding, provisioning).

Parental Investment

The investment of resources (time, energy, provisions) into offspring.

Parental Investment Theory

The correlation between parental investment and mate choice where the greater the parental investment the more selective, and the lesser the investment the greater the access to more mates (Trivers, 1972).

Parietal Lobe (Brain)

One of the major lobes in the human brain, roughly located at the upper back in the skull (“crown”). It processes sensory information such as touch, taste, and temperature, spatial senses and navigation (proprioception), and language processing.

Paternal investment

The parental effort of fathers.

Paternity assessment

The ability of males to assess the likelihood of having sired a particular offspring.

Paternity confidence

A male’s confidence in being the father of one or more offspring.

Paternity uncertainty

Uncertainty about paternity due to female mating behavior.


The biological mechanism (or mechanisms) that leads to a disease state and can also refer to the origin and development of a disease, and whether it is acute, chronic, or recurrent.


The absolute ability of an infectious agent to cause disease or damage in a host.

Peer Review (Academic Publishing)

The professional critique by other scholars or scientists from the same field that normally takes place before scholarly or scientific papers are accepted for publication.

Penile Implants

Foreign objects embedded beneath the skin of the penis.

Perineum The area around the anus and genitals.
Period synchronization (or menstrual synchrony)

The phenomenon whereby women appear to synchronize their menstrual cycles.


Around the time of ovulation.

Peripartum depression

Depression that occurs during pregnancy.

Permanent body modification (PBM)

Intentional permanent or semipermanent alterations of the living human body for reasons such as ritual, folk medicine, aesthetics, or corporal punishment. In general, voluntary changes are considered to be modifications, and involuntary changes are considered mutilations.

Peyote (Lophophora williamsii)

A small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids (mescaline) that is native to Mexico and southwestern Texas.

Phenotypic flexibility

The range of an individual’s reversible variation in behavior, morphology, physiology, and life-history traits in response to changes in their environment.


Molecules that are produced by one individual and have signal value for another individual of the same species.

Phonology (Linguistics)

The organization of the sounds or signs in language.

Phylogenetic Tree

A branching diagram showing the evolutionary relationships among biological species, or other entities, based on their physical or genetic characteristics.

Physiological trade-off

A compromise between different physiological needs of body functions.

Phytanic Acid

A branched chain fatty acid produced during the digestion of chlorophyll, especially in foregut fermenting species (ruminants) that consume plant materials. Humans obtain phytanic acid by consuming dairy products, ruminant animals, and some fish.

Phytanic Acid Metabolism (in humans)

Eating ruminants (red meat and dairy) creates special demands on detoxifying metabolism as phytanic acid (lipids) from plants eaten by ruminants can be toxic to humans.


1. The deliberate creation of a hole in the skin and/or flesh, often to hold an ornament such as an earring. 2. perforation itself. (e.g., “I changed the jewelry in my piercing”). 4. The ornament that is worn in a perforation of the tissue. More accurately described as piercing jewelry, body piercing jewelry, or body jewelry. (e.g., “My piercing fell out”).

Pioneer transcription factor

A type of transcription factor that can open and bind to chromatin. They control enhancer activation and are important in the recruitment of other transcription factors and in controlling DNA methylation.


A genus of single-celled organisms that are obligate parasites of vertebrates and insects. In humans, malaria is caused by multiple species of Plasmodium and transmitted by mosquitos (commonly female Anopheles mosquitos).

Playa de los Muertos

A village in Honduras occupied from before 700 BCE to ca. 200 BCE. It also refers to the style of figurines produced and used there.


A geological epoch from ~2.5 mya to 11.7 kya characterized by a period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archeology. Subdivisions:

  • Early (Lower) Pleistocene: ~2.58 mya - 781 kya.
  • Middle Pleistocene: Emergence of Homo sapiens. 781 - 126 kya.
  • Late (Upper) Pleistocene: 126 - 11.7 kya.

A fine particulate matter (particles or droplets less than 3 microns in width) air pollutant that causes haze, reduces air quality, and can cause short- and long-term negative health effects.

Poised Gene

The idea that some genes are more easily expressed because of their chromatin state.


A mating system where females regularly mate with multiple males.


Relating to a trait determined by two or more genes. Most traits of organisms are polygenic.


A mating system in which males and females mate with multiple partners.


A mating system where males regularly mate with multiple females.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

A method of copying a specified locus.

Polysialic acid

A homopolymer of sialic acids abundant in the brain and fish eggs and found on certain pathogenic bacteria.

POM121 A gene that encodes for transmembrane nucleoporin, a protein that localizes to the inner nuclear membrane and forms a core component of the nuclear pore complex, which mediates transport to and from the nucleus.
Population bottleneck

The dramatic reduction in population size, which often results in a loss of genetic diversity.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Neuroimaging

A functional imaging technique used to observe metabolic process in the body.

Post-partum amenorrhea (PA)

Temporary cessation of menstrual cycles after giving birth.

Posterior Parietal Cortex

The portion of parietal neocortex that plays an important role in planned movements, spatial reasoning, and attention.

Postmenopausal Longevity

The period of time after a woman has ceased ovulating. This life-stage is unique to humans and not expressed in non-human primates.

Postpartum depression

Depression that occurs after pregnancy. 15% of women experience depression after childbirth, making this the most common complication of childbirth.


The product of work and speed (velocity).

Pre-frontal cortex (brain)

The cerebral cortex that covers the front part of the frontal lobe and is linked to complex cognitive behavior, personality, long and short-term memory, decision making, speech, language, and a person’s will to live.

Preprint (Academic Publishing)

A version of a scholarly or scientific paper that has not yet been formally peer reviewed. It is freely available before it is published as a finished product in a peer-reviewed scholarly or scientific journal, which often include costly paywalls. It is generally not good practice for news outlets to report on preprinted results because they have not been peer-reviewed.

Presynaptic transport

The transport of vesicles containing neurotransmitters on the presynaptic side prior to release of neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft (chemical synapse).


Ritual pricking of the prepuce or clitoris to draw a drop of blood. This is sometimes used as a substitute by those seeking to maintain a custom in a minimal way that does not leave lasting damage.

Primary Somatosensory Cortex

A region of the Neocortex that controls tactile representation from the parts of the body.


A group of mammals that include humans, apes, monkeys, and prosimians.


The scientific discipline involving the study of living and extinct primates (monkeys and apes), especially their evolution and behavior. Modern primatology consists of Western and Japanese traditions that developed simultaneously but independently in the 1950s.


A type of abnormal, pathogenic protein that can cause other, normal, proteins to similarly misfold. Prions are involved in many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease.”


The open-ended ability to combine meaningful linguistic units into new higher order units of meaning: for example, roots, prefixes (e.g. anti-), and suffixes (e.g. -ish) into words, and words (or signs) into phrases and sentences (Kluender, 2020).


A steroid and sex hormone involved in the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and embryogenesis of invertebrates and mammals.


Unicellular organisms that lack a membrane-bound nucleus, mitochondria, or any other membrane-bound organelle. This definition is now debated as some “prokaryotes,” such as archea (“extremophiles”), are more closely related to eukaryotes.


Unicellular organisms that lack a membrane- bound nucleus, mitochondria, or any other membrane-bound organelle. (see Eukaryotes)

Proliferative phase

The part of the menstrual cycle phase in which the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, expands.

Promotive Factor

Predictor of positive outcome under most conditions, whether risk is low or high.

Propofol (Diprivan)

A short-acting medication, believed to work at least partly via GABA receptors, that is used for the starting and maintenance of general anesthesia, sedation for mechanically ventilated adults, and procedural sedation. Effects include decreased level of consciousness and a lack of memory for events.


The awareness of the position and movement of the body.


A group of primates that includes all living and extinct galagos, lemurs, lorises, and tarsiers. They are considered to have characteristics that are more “primitive” (ancestral) than those of monkeys, apes, and humans.

Protective Factor

Moderator of risk or adversity associated with better outcomes particularly when risk or adversity is high.


One of the four classes of major biomolecules. Proteins are molecules encoded by DNA sequences and composed of amino acids connected by peptide bonds. These range in size from a few amino acids (short peptides) to large molecules (long polypeptides) comprised of thousands of amino acids.

Protein coding sequence

A section of DNA or RNA that codes for protein.

Protein-coding sequence

A section of DNA or RNA that codes for protein.


An informal term for unicellular (single celled) eukaryotes, either free-living or parasitic.


A ribosomal subunit that is activated by intracellular cascades and therefore used as a marker for neuron activity. This subunit is physically attached to RNA molecules that are being translated into protein and therefore can also provide information about which genes are expressed in active neurons.


A gene that has lost its function. Some pseudogenes may be translated into a protein, but typically the protein is inactive.

Psychological AI

An approach to machine intelligence that also incorporates other features of human intelligence such as causal reasoning, intuitive psychology, and physics.

Psychological Evolutionary Barrier

The mental equivalent of a physiological evolutionary barrier (such as the difficulty of evolving from an aquatic existence to living on land). A hypothetical concept.


The study of mental disorders.


A broad class of drugs that stimulate sympathetic nerves and whose effects can include increased movement, arousal, vigilance, anorexia, vigor, wakefulness, and attention. Some psychostimulants, especially at high doses and with a rapid route of administration, can produce euphoria, a sense of power and confidence, and addiction. Cocaine is a psychostimulant.

Pulmonary Hypertension

High blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs. Also affects the right side of the heart.


An intoxicating beverage made by fermenting fructose-rich juice collected from the heart of the maguey plant.