Glossary

Adaptation A change in structure or function that makes an organism better fitted to its environment.
Algal toxin Poisons (made by some species of algae) that can kill wildlife.
Autopsy The examination of a body after death.
Blubber An insulating fat layer under the skin of some marine mammals.
Canopy A cover formed by the upper fronds of a kelp forest.
Carrying capacity The number of individuals of a certain species that can be supported indefinitely in a given environment.
Census An official count of individuals of a species.
Crustacean An animal of the class Crustacea, which typically has a body covered with a hard shell or crust. This class includes: crabs, barnacles, sea urchins, lobsters, and shrimps.
Ecosystem An often complex system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with each other and with their environment.
Eelgrass A grass-like marine plant, Zostera marina, which has ribbon-like leaves.
Emaciation Abnormal thinness caused by weight loss from disease and/or lack of nutrition.
Endangered Species Act A United States law enacted in 1973 which provides for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals, and the habitats in which they are found.
Estuary A body of water created where fresh water from the land meets and mixes with the salt water of the ocean.
Euthanize To kill a person or animal painlessly, especially to relieve suffering from an incurable illness.
Evolve When living things develop by an evolutionary process to a different, often more adaptive, state.
Extinct To die out, no longer be in existence.
Exxon Valdez oil spill A major oil spill which occurred March 24, 1989 when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit ground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. This incident spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil across 1,300 miles of coast and harmed the living things in that area.
Flipper A limb adapted for swimming.
Forage To search for food.
Gastrointestinal Relating to the stomach and intestines.
Genetic variation The differences among the genes of individuals. A greater diversity of genes may give groups of living things a greater ability to adapt to changing situations.
Glucose A type of sugar which supplies an important part of the energy animals need.
Groom When an otter tends to the fur of itself or another, removing dirt or food particles and spreading natural waterproofing oils.
Habitat destruction A decrease in the quality of an environment for wild living things due to human activities.
Hydration The process of providing liquid to bodily tissues.
Hypothermia An abnormally low body temperature.
Instinct An inborn tendency to act, or perform a pattern of actions, common to a group of animals.
Insulation Material used to prevent heat from escaping.
Kelp A large, fast-growing cold-water brown seaweed, of the family Laminariaceae, that can grow in thick forests along the California Coast, providing food and habitat for many other species.
Keystone species A living thing whose impact on its community or ecosystem is disproportionately large when compared to its abundance.
Marine mammal A diverse group of mammals that have adapted to live life primarily in the ocean. This group includes: sea otters, whales, and seals.
Marine Mammal Protection Act A United States law enacted in 1972 that protects all marine mammals, with a few exceptions, from being killed or harassed.
Mating trauma A body wound or shock resulting from mating behaviors.
Metabolism The various chemical processes in living things, especially those processes that produce energy from food.
Mollusk An animal of the phylum Mollusca, which typically has a shell of one, two, or more calcarous pieces, protecting the soft body. This phylum includes: clams, mussels, chitons, and snails.
Necropsy The examination of a body after death.
Neonate  A newborn baby in the first weeks of life.
Neurosis A mild mental disorder; sometimes brought on by stress, and characterized by obsessive behavior.
Parasite A living thing that exists in or on a host organism from which it obtains benefit, while the host is often harmed by this association.
Pelt The hide or skin of an animal. Often used for fur clothing.
Poacher A person who hunts illegally.
Population A group of individuals of the same species who live in the same area and are somehow distinct from other groups of the same species.
Quarantine Isolation imposed to protect against negative behaviors or disease.
Radio transmitter A mechanical implement that transmits signals detected by a radio system.
Raft A group of sea otters.
Resource limitation When the growth of a population of animals is restricted by an essential resource such as food or habitat (caused naturally or by humans).
Runoff Surface water from urbanized or agricultural areas that runs in to receiving waters such as lakes or oceans, often carrying pollutants of various kinds.
Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program A program of The Monterey Bay Aquarium that rescues, treats, and releases injured otters; raises and releases stranded pups through a surrogate program; provides care for sea otters that cannot be returned to the wild, and conducts scientific research.
Sea urchin An animal of the class Echinoidea, which has a round shape and a shell composed of many calcareous plates covered with projecting spines.
Subcutaneous Under the skin.
Surrogate mother An animal that raises another’s offspring.
Sustainability Supporting long-term ecological balance of the planet.
Wean To accustom a young mammal to food other than its mother’s milk. In sea otters, it is an abrupt end to the association between mother and pup.