Category Archives: Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Lek

Today’s word is:

lek

Pronounced: …lek. This one sounds like it looks!

Sciency Definition: A lek is a communal assembly area where members of certain species meet to carry on courtship behavior and impress the local ladies.

I could have said: Prairie Chicken party place! Musk Duck disco dance-off! Hermit Hummingbird ho-down! Capercaillie ass-kicking camp! (I could go on.)

What’s it do?  A lek is a place of great testosteronal activity: males of species including ground-dwelling birds like Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) and Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) gather in one designated spot, performing mating displays and challenging each other. “Lek” is a word of Swedish origin, coming from the word leka which means “to play.” “Lekking” is the act of performing at a lek, which may also be called a “strutting ground.” Superior males get prime real estate in the lek, with lesser contenders lingering further towards the outskirts. Females visit to survey the selection and choose a mate. Pretty neat, huh?

Example sentence: I don’t have an example sentence today; all I can think about is a group of human males getting together in a big field to flap their arms and stomp their feet and make noise, while mildly-amused women stand off to the side, muttering to each other. I need some coffee.

You can check out an outstanding video here of Sharp Tailed Grouse lekking it up! It very well may be the coolest thing you see all week.

Diagram of Sage Grouse Lekking Grounds Via Sadi Carnot on Wiki

 

More for the super-nerds

 Just wanted to share this snippet of an article talking about male courtship behavior in animals like peacocks, cardinals, or any other species whose males aren’t exactly camoflauged:

Zahavi declared that male sexual characteristics only convey useful information to the females if these traits confer a handicap on the male.[12]Otherwise, males could simply cheat: if the courtship displays have a neutral effect on survival, males could all perform equally and it would signify nothing to the females. But if the courtship display is somehow deleterious to the male’s survival—such as increased predator risk or time and energy expenditure—it becomes a test by which females can assess male quality. Under the “handicap principle,” males who excel at the courtship displays prove that they are of better quality and genotype, as they have already withstood the costs to having these traits.”

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Word of the Week: Bight

Today’s word is:

bight

Pronounced: bite

Sciency Definition: A bend or curve in a shoreline, [or in a rope, as opposed to the ends of the rope]; also, a wide bay-type formation created by such a curve.

What’s it do?  A bights is shallower than a sound  and wider than a bay. Depending on location and local ecology, bights can be hotspots for upwellings of nutrient-rich waters. In these areas, food chains flourish. The Robson Bight of British Columbia is visited annually by orcas, and the marine mammals seem to rest and play more in the bight than when visiting other areas of the BC coast.

Example sentence: The Great Australian Bight is an example of a bight that does not harbor abundantly fertile waters due in part to a lack of runoff from the edge of the continent. Southern Right Whales and sharks are frequent visitors.

Southern California Bight.

Word of the Week: Crepuscular

Today’s word is:

crepuscular

Pronounced: crep-PUH-skew-lur

Sciency Definition: Relating to twilight, or descriptive of activity occurring during twilight.

Or I could have said: Dawn and dusk.

What’s it do? Animals, insects, fish, and all other living things that are “crepuscular” are most active during the times between day and night, a time known as twilight. (Not to be confused with that vampire movie.) Temperatures during dusk tend to be milder in hot climates, and the dimmed light provides a certain measure of cover to animals that are usually preyed upon. On the other side of it, the lower light helps predators stay under cover as well! Examples of crepuscular animals are deer, fox, many species of snake, and plenty more. One of my all-time favorite crepuscular critters are lightning-bugs (also known as fireflies)!

Example sentence: I was quite nocturnal in my college years, but now I find that I prefer the crepuscular times of day.

Fireflies in the forest, by Quit007.

Word of the Week: Passerine

Today’s word is:

passerine

PronouncedPASS-er-in

Sciency Definition: A member of the order Passeriformes, the largest group of the class Aves.

Or I could have saidPerching bird.

What’s it do?  Members of the order Passeriformes are the perching birds, which include more than half of the living species of birds. They each possess feet adapted for perching or clinging. “Song birds” are all passerines but not all passerines are song birds; song birds just have the best use of the muscles used for creating vocalizations (the syrinx). Some song birds, instead of singing, create an incredible range of sounds including clicks, croaks, and mimics of sounds they hear in their environments.

Example sentence: Despite being categorized as passerines, crows and ravens do not use their syrinx muscles to produce songs.

Baby scrub jays might be passerines, but they have a song only a mother could love!

To see a video of one of the greatest passerine mimics on the planet, click here to watch a video of the Australian Lyrebird in action.

Word of the Week: Caldera

Today’s word is:

caldera

Pronounced: cal-DARE-uh

Sciency Definition: The large crater formed when the center of a volcano collapses during an eruption.

Or I could have said: Giant hole in the middle of a volcano.

What’s it do?  Calderas can form incredible lakes, like the one found at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Crater Lake was formed when the volcano known as Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed in upon itself. Over the nearly eight thousand years since the eruption, the crater has filled in with rain and snow water, creating one of deepest and clearest lakes in the world.

Example sentenceThe Old Man of the Lake has been bobbing in the waters of the Crater Lake caldera for more than a hundred years!

 

Aerial view of Crater Lake in the winter, by Zainubrazvi via Wiki. Wizard Island sits in the western section of the lake.


Word(s) of the Week: Phloem and Xylem

Today’s words are:

[phloem] and [xylem]

Pronounced: FLOW-um, ZYE-lum

Sciency Definition: Phloem and xylem are two layers of tissues found within the stems of plants and trunks of trees.

Or I could have said: Plant guts.

What’s it do?  Phloem is made of tissues that transport sugars created during photosynthesis, feeding the plant from the top (where the leaves are) down to the roots. The xylem is made of tissues that transport water and minerals up from the root system. In trees, the xylem dies after one year, creating the rings you see in a tree’s cross-section.

Example sentenceA tree ain’t cryin’ without its XYLEM! Ha! Uh, sorry, I must have had some phloem stuck in my throat.

Can you use either of these words this week? Report back in the comments!

Cross-section of a flax stem by SuperManu, via Wiki. The xylem is #3, and the phloem is #4.

Word of the Week: Sclera

Today’s word is:

sclera 

Pronounced: SCLARE-uh

Sciency Definition: The white, fibrous tissue that covers all of the eyeball except the cornea.

Or I could have saidEyeball.

What’s it do? The sclera gives the eyeballs their shape and protects them from damage when your 4 year old pokes your 2 year old in the eye just to see what happens. The muscles that control the movement of the eye also attach to the sclera, and the sclera also keeps all the important organs of the eye in place so our depth perception and focal abilities remain intact. (Did you know that eyeballs have organs?)

Example sentence: Don’t fire until you can see the sclera of their eyes!

Sclera, via Rhcastilhos on Wiki.


Word of the Week: Macrophyte (Formerly: Video of the Week.)

So my computer had to go into the shop for a while and after being computerless for a time, I lost a lot of my interest in froofing around on the internet for hours at a time. I kind of can’t stand watching videos online at the moment (unless it’s The Daily Show), so now for something slightly more educational:

Word of the Week!

This segment will [mildly] stretch your brain and give you completely arbitrary information that you can share at dinner parties, on the bus to work, or with your significant other when they’re not expecting it. Each week I’ll share a word and its definition, and challenge you to use at least ONCE at SOME point in the week – and then post what you did in the comments section. Or, rather, what your friend or family member did after you said it. The more absurd, the better.

Today’s word is:

macrophyte

Sciency DefinitionA macrophyte is a “macroscopic” (meaning that it can be seen with the naked eye) aquatic plant, emergent (rooted in soil but most of the vegetative growth above waterline), submergent (all plant matter beneath the waterline), or floating (floating).

Or I could have saidWater plants.

What’s it do? Macrophytes provide cover and forage for aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates, and supply the water with oxygen. (They’re really important.)

Example sentence: What kind of macrophytes are in this sushi?