Glossary | C

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Calcareous
containing calcium carbonate (chalk)
California current
cold ocean current that flows southward along the west coast of the US to the northern part of Baja.
Cambrian
the earliest period of the Paleozoic era, about 600 million years ago: rocks formed at this period contain earliest fossil remains of jellies
Camouflage
behavior, shape, coloration and/or pattern that helps an organism to blend in with its surroundings
Canopy
top layer of the kelp forest where fronds float on the sea surface and shade the ocean floor; also applies to rain forests where canopies shade the ground

Carnivore
an animal or plant that primarily eats animal tissue
Cartilage
firm but flexible connective tissue
Cast
compact mass of non-digestible waste products matter (fur, bones, plastic, etc.) regurgitated by some birds; pellet
Catadromous
fishes that spawn in the ocean whose offspring migrate to fresh water where they grow and mature
Caudal
posterior; toward the tail
Caudal peduncle
fleshy portion of the body just in front of the tail or caudal fin
Celestial equator
an imaginary great circle in the sky drawn concentric to the Earth's equator
Cephalopod
any member of the Class Cephalopoda of mollusks; has a distinct head with a beak and muscular tentacles around the mouth; octopus, squid and cuttlefish
Cerrate
projections from body surface of nudibranchs (sea slugs); external gills
Cetacean
any member of the Order Cetacea; whales, dolphins and porpoises
Chlorophyll
any of approximately 12 kinds of green pigments present in most plant cells; use carbon dioxide and water present in the environment to convert the energy from sunlight into carbohydrates that are then used by other organisms as a source of energy
Chordate
any member of the Phylum Chordata; animals that have a notochord, gill slits and dorsal nerve chord at some point of development
Chorion
protective membrane around the eggs of insects
Chromatophores
pigment containing or producing cells that, cntrolled by the nervous system, contract or expand in shape changing the color of the organism. Highly developed in octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish.
Ciguatoxin
toxin produced by microscopic organisms growing on marine algae. This type of algae is commonly found in or around tropical reef areas, and is ingested by fish. The toxin accumulates in the flesh of the fish, and when eaten by humans the result is ciguatera fish poisoning
Cilia
minute hair like strand some animals use to produce a current for feeding or to move themselves. (Singular cilium)
CITES Appendix II
CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Appendix II applies to species that, although not threatened with extinction now, might become so unless trade in them is strictly controlled and monitored. CITES Appendix II also includes some non-threatened species, in order to prevent threatened species from being traded under the guise of non-threatened species that are similar in appearance.
Claspers
modified pair of appendages on pelvic fins of male sharks, skates and rays used to pass sperm to the female
Cloaca
intestinal, urinary and reproductive opening in birds, reptiles, amphibians and many fish
Cnidae
specialized stinging cells called nematocysts in jellies, spirocysts and plychocysts in anthrozoans (sea anemones, corals, sea pansies, sea pens). Used for capturing prey and/or defense from predators.
Cnideria
taxonomic Phylum to which medusa jellies, sea anemones, corals, and related animals belong; formerly called Coelenterata
Cnidoblast
precursor cell of cnidocyst
Cnidocyte
specialized cells containing the cnidae; located on tentacles and oral arms of jellies

Cold-blooded
having an unregulated body temperature closely controlled by the temperature of the environment; exothermic
Colony
group of all the same animals, living together in a way that benefits each member of the group
Color phase
roughly analogous to hair color in humans; one of several coat colors present in a single species
Commensal
a type of symbiotic relationship in which an organism lives in a close association with another organism, with one benefiting from the association without helping or harming the other organism
Community
ecological collection of different plants and animal populations living within a given area or zone
Concave
curved or rounded inward
Consumer
heterotropic organism that feeds on other organisms
Copepod
any member of the crustacean Subclass Copepoda
Copepod
Within the water column, copepods are the most numerous multi-cellular organisms.They often referred to as the “insects of the sea”, because of their sheer numbers and similar role in food webs as insects have on land. Marine copepods are the major food item for many other planktonic species, sea-birds, some great whales, and filter-feeding sharks. Copepod means “oar footed”.
Copulation
act of sexual reproduction
Coronal muscles
structures embedded on underside of a jelly's bell that push water out of the bell; jelly moves on opposite direction of the push
Countercurrent heat exchange
a way to conserve body heat by exchanging heat from warm blood flowing to the body surface with cool blood flowing to the body core
Countershading
type of protective coloration in which an animal is dark on its top side and light on its under side
Countershading
type of protective coloration in which an animal is dark on its top side and light on its under side
Courtship
specific behavior(s) performed as a prelude to mating to attract and secure mates
Creche
a group (flock) of unrelated young birds gathered together for protection
Crepuscular
active at twilight or just before sunrise
Critical Habitat
areas of habitat that are crucial to the survival of a species and essential for its conservation and that have been formally designated as such by rule published in the Federal Register.
Crustacean
any member of the Class Crustacea of arthropods; have hard outer shell, jointed legs and gills for breathing; e.g., crabs, shrimps and barnacles
Cryptic
camouflaged, fitted for concealment
Ctenophora
phylum that contains comb jellies
Cubozoan
name proposed by some research scientists for a fourth class in Phylum Cnidaria that would include box-shaped jellies, e.g., sea wasp