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PROCTOR MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE, INC.

DEFINITIONS, TERMINOLOGY
& OTHER INFORMATION

In Alphabetical Order, here are some definitions, terminology and other information, which may be helpful.


This page is under construction, and will never be complete, because of
space limitations for a complete natural history Dictionary.

However, we plan to keep adding more definitions, terminology and useful
information, for your use and benefit on this website and elsewhere.



  1. A&M = Texas A&M University (as if there were any anywhere else). O.K. if we say Okla. A&M we mean Oklahoma A & M University.
  2. apical = the view seen when looking at the tip of the crown of the tooth from above (same as occlusal).
  3. anterior = front.
  4. anterolaterals = a rowgroup of teeth in which the similarities between anterior and lateral teeth make distinguishing between the two nearly impossible.
  5. aperatural = view from the open end of a chambered body, such as cephalopod.
  6. artiodactyla = even toed, ungulates {hoofed mammals} which includes, but is not limited to bison, camels, cattle, deer, giraffes, goats, and sheep {not intended to be a complete list}).
  7. basal = view seen when looking at the bottom of an organism from below.
  8. benthic = the bottom of the ocean and the fauna dwelling there.
  9. biota = total mass of living things in a given location.
  10. biosphere = a given location of living things.
  11. bony fish = fish which have internal bones, like most other animals, instead of cartilage like the sharks, rays and a few other fish. This includes the Class Osteichthyes (Lower Devonian to Recent); Class Holosteans (an earlier, more primitive group of bony fishes, found in North American from the Upper Permian to Recent); and the Class Acanthodians, which has been placed with the placoderms, but is more similar to the Osteichthyes. They had many fins, both paired and unpaired. They existed probably from the Lower Silurian, reached their peak during the Devonian and survived into the Lower Permian.
  12. carnivora (carnivores) = a grouping of animals which most are meat eaters, although not all are exclusively meat eaters, as some are omnivorous. Carnivora, from Latin caro (stem carn-) 'flesh', + vorare 'to devour') includes over 260 placental mammals.
  13. artiodactyla = even toed, hoofed, mammals (includes such things as bison, camels, cattle, deer, goats, and sheep {not intended to be a complete list}
  14. cartilaginous = refers to sharks, ray and a few other fishes, which bodies are supported entirely of cartilage, not bone. Cartilaginous fish are more ancient than the bony fish.
  15. commensalism is a symbiotic relationship, an association that is clearly to the advantage of one species while not harming the other.
  16. Como Bluff = is the location near Medicine Bow, Wyoming, where many dinosaur fossils have been found. It was where famous Paleontologist Cope and Marsh tried to outdo each other with dinosaur finds.
  17. coprolite = fossilized excrement, i.e the non-digestible portion of food passed through the alimentary canal (digestive tract) of an animal.
  18. craton stable structural portion of the Earth's continental crust.
  19. crown = the enameloid-covered portion of a tooth.
  20. curator = Janitor, and/or someone who collects things, labels them, builds displays, talks with folks about the Museum, pays the bills, raises funds, gets out newsletters, washes the dishes, identifies things in the Museum if and when the Curator has the ability to do so (which often is limited) and anything else that needs to be done. (You are right--this definition is designed to show 'self-depredation')
  21. cusp = the major crown projection of a tooth.
  22. cusplet = a minor crown projection flanking the crown of a tooth.
  23. diagentic = the processes affecting rock layers and mineral composition at or near the surface
  24. digit = single finger or toe.
  25. distal = toward the hinge of the jaw (opposite of mesial).
  26. dorsal toward the top.
  27. dorsoventrally = from top to bottom.
  28. eArt Scanning = the new art form developed by Terrell William Proctor, J.D., curator of the PMNS for scanning things directly into your computer, without a camera, which gives them a 3D appearance. Read about eART SCANNING.
  29. epifauna = organisms which live attached to other, generally larger organisms. The attachment may or may not be be symbiotic or beneficial to either organism.
  30. epoch = a geological age, such as the Oligocene Epoch which covered the period from 23.7 MYA to 36.6 MYA.
  31. extant = still in existence.
  32. exterior = outside
  33. extinct = no longer in existence. (usually meaning an entire species, not just an individual organism).
  34. facies = the sum total of all feature composing a rock unit. These include sedimentary rock type, bedding features, fossil content, occlusions, etc.
  35. fluvial = depositional processes and products caused by rivers and streams (where material has flowed down and been deposited, often in fan-shaped patterns at the mouth of the flowing water where it enters another body of water).
  36. foramen = hole.
  37. foraminifera (a/k/a forams) = microfossils, which are small shells (tests), built by single-celled organisms. Most require magnification to examine. They are valuable to the petrochemical industry as index fossils for locating hydrocarbon resources.
  38. fusilinids = a microfossil. These are wheat or rice grain-shaped, tiny, but visible, marine fossils
  39. genus = a taxonomic term for a group of related species that have morphologic characteristics uniting them. This is next to the smallest category of living things. A genus contains closely related living things, but some may not be able to reproduce with each other. The smallest category is "species" (although there may be sub-categories under species).
  40. Geological Age = the designation of a period of time, given by scientists between certain distant times in the past when conditions on Earth and the fauna, flora and geological conditions were similar enough to be grouped together and/or the time period between certain cataclysmic incidences which altered the terrain and/or life on Earth.
  41. Geomorphology = the description and interpretation of surface
  42. landforms.
  43. HGMS = http://hgms.org and the HOUSTON GEM & MINERAL SOCIETY. This is a wonderful Rockhound group with Sections in Paleontology, Faceting, Minerals, Lapidary, Day Light (for mature citizens who like meeting in the daytime) and Junior Rockhounds (called Pebble Puppies). A great group to join to learn about Earth Science, collecting and gem and jewelry making.
  44. ichnofossil = all the various tracks and trails left by fossil organisms in the rock record. Also known as trace fossils.
  45. ichnogenus = an organism described on footprint data only.
  46. index fossil = a fossil species which characterizes a specific time horizon by its abundance. An index fossil may or may not be limited to that horizon. Usually a fossil which is widely found, in a rather narrow time horizon, thereby making it an item to designate a geological time frame. See index fossils.
  47. in situ = Latin, meaning "in place". Fossils, minerals, artifacts etc. which have not been moved since the original deposition of the item, as said to be "in situ". This often refers to fossils in rocks or matrix, which were not washed there by a river or some cataclysmic move.
  48. interior = inside.
  49. Kingdom = The largest category of living things, such as the Animal kingdom; the Plant kingdom and three others.
  50. labial = the face of a tooth facing the outside of the mouth.
  51. labiolingual = the orientation of a tooth relative to the outside and inside of the mouth.
  52. lingual = the face of a tooth facing the tongue.
  53. McFadden Beach = This is the Upper Texas Gulf Coast beach between Sabine Pass (near the Louisiana border) and High Island (which is about half way between Sabine Pass and Bolivar Point {Bolivar Point is just across Galveston Bay from the island of Galveston}). This beach often has Pleistocene fossils and more Clovis Points (the spear points used by ancient Americans, first found near Clovis, New Mexico) than anywhere else in the United States, although they are still very rare and seldom found.
  54. marine regression = withdrawal of the seas from the continental shelves resulting in a net gain in exposed landmass.
  55. marine transgression = inward movement of the seas over the low lying shelves of the continental plates, usually resulting in a net loss to the landmass.
  56. mesial = toward the front of the jaw (opposite of distal)
  57. mesodistal = referencing front to back of the jaw.
  58. MYA = Million years ago. Take off the letters MYA and add 000,000 to get the age being referred to. This means millions of years before the present and is sometimes written as MYBP instead of MYA.
  59. occlusal = the view seen when looking at the tip of the crown of the tooth from above (same as apical).
  60. ootheca = a firm walled, distinctive egg case, such as laid by a cockroach.
  61. oral = teeth found in the mouth. (hence the oral cavity is the hole in the body in which the teeth are located).
  62. Osteichthbyes = one of a couple of extant bony fishes (from the Lower Devonian to recent).
  63. Ostracods = a large group of mostly microscopic crustaceans that enclose themselves in two shell halves (valves). This also are of value in the hydrocarbon industry.
  64. outcrop = total area over which a particular rock unit occurs on the surface. Often this term is used to refer to a smaller area of rock than the general land surface in the area, where a different age or type of rock, mineral and/or fossiliferous matrix is exposed.
  65. paleo = Paleontology and sometimes Paleontology Section such as HGMS/Paleo.
  66. pelagic = lifestyle adopted by marine organisms living in the open sea but not on the sea floor, includes planktonic and nektonic forms. You may want to visit the Paleo + Pelagica Museum (P+PM) = http://paleopelagicamuseum.com of which Anna Stanley is President at present.
  67. perissodactyla = odd toed ungulates {hoofed, mammals, including, but is not limited to asses, horses, rhinoceroses, tapirs, zebras)
  68. Phanerozoic = (Latin-'obvious life'). This is the period of time during which sediments accumulated that contain obvious remains of plants and animals. Typically this refers to the complete time period from the start of the Cambrian Era, to the present day
  69. phylogeny. = the evolution of a related group of organisms through geologic time.
  70. phylum = The largest category of living things, other than the Kingdoms. For instance the Phylum Arthropoda contains things with exoskeltons and includes insects, lobsters and many other creatures.
  71. planktonic = organisms which float passively with the currents in a body of water.
  72. PMNS = PROCTOR MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE (this museum).
  73. remanie = organic skeletal material that has accumulated over a considerable period of time and has been subjected to transportation and abrasion prior to burial. Many bone beds and condensed sections contain fossils produced by these processes.
  74. rostral = spine-like teeth found along the edges of the flattened rostrum of sawfishes.\
  75. rostrum = elongated snout of sawfishes and other billfishes.
  76. scute = an osteoderm, which is a portion of the hide or body covering of certain animals, such as crocodiles, alligators, caimans, armadillos and glyptodonts.
  77. sigmoid = having a shape resembling the letter "S".
  78. sp. = abbreviation for species (see just below)
  79. species = from a biological standpoint, members of an animal or plant population which can interbreed. Fossil species fall into the same concept, at the time which the fossil lived, i.e. they had the same morphological traits and probably interbred. Species is generally considered the final designation of living things. A species may have different appearances and still interbreed. Dogs for instance are all the same species. Humans are also, all the same species, Homo sapiens, even though we have many different appearances.
  80. Stone City Formation = The site on the Brazos River on State Hwy #21 from Bryan to Caldwell, which is a well known Middle Eocene age site, where numerous species of invertebrate fossils and a few shark's teeth are found. The location is in the Western bank of the Brazos River and under or near the bridge on the said State Hwy. It is easily accessible and has been dug for years by many individuals and organizations, including students at Texas A&M University and Texas University.
  81. symbiotic relationship is a relationship between two living things which enhances the life of at least one and does not harm the life of the other. It is often advantageous to both.
  82. Teleost = the largest and most advanced group of ray-finned bony fishes, including most living fish. Teleosts are bony fishes. Sharks, rays and a few others are more ancient, cartilaginous fishes.
  83. TERRYCO = http://terryco.us the private web site of PMNS Board Chairman and Curator T. W. "Terry" Proctor, J.D. and wife, Delilah A. Proctor. This is the site where you can gain information on how to do eArt Scanning. This is helpful in recording and making graphics of fossils, minerals and even live things like lizards, plants and insects.
  84. TMM = http://www.tmm.utexas.edu. The Texas Memorial Museum connected with the University of Texas.
  85. USGS = United States Geological Survey. A U.S. Government agency which has geological maps and a multitude of other information.
  86. Warfield Quarry = the location in Kemmerer, Wyoming, where many of us have collected Eocene fossil fish.