adaptation– a specific structure, behavior or physiological mechanism that enhances the survival or reproduction of an organism in a particular environment.

adaptive radiation– the evolution of new species among related populations resulting from their ability to adapt to a wide variety of habitats.

alien species– species introduced into a particular environment by man; not naturally occurring.

artisanal– traditional; non-commercial.

asexual– without sex. Usually applies to organisms that are able to reproduce without forming gametes (sex cells).

baleen– substance made of a protein called keratin that forms “plates” in the mouths of some whales; used to strain their food. Also known as whalebone.

baleen whales– whales belonging to the sub-order mysticetes. These whales lack teeth which have been replaced by a series of baleen plates that serve as strainers for collecting food.

binomial nomenclature– consisting of two names. In taxonomy, the method of assigning each organism a genus name and a species name.

biodiversity– the total number of genes, species and ecosystems found on earth.

biological classification– the method used to name and classify all living organisms based on seven levels of increasing evolutionary relatedness: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. Also known as taxonomy.

biomagnification– the increasing accumulation of a toxin in increasing levels of a food chain.

biome– a general type of ecosystem occupying a large geographical area. The same type of biome (example: grassland, desert) in different parts of the world will have similar vegetation and climate.

blowhole– the nasal opening(s) of whales.

blubber– a thick layer of fat found in marine birds and mammals that is used for insulation, an aid in buoyancy and as an energy reserve.

bradycardia– a physiological mechanism by which the heart rate is able to be slowed in order to use oxygen most efficiently; used by some animals during times of oxygen depravation such as deep water dives.

breaching- a spectacular behavior exhibited by whales in which the animal propels itself out of the water and clears the surface with at least two-thirds of its body.

by-catch– the total number of non-target organisms caught incidentally in non-selective fishing gear.

CITES– The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. An international treaty designed to protect endangered species from the pressures of commercial trade.

calf– a newborn whale or dolphin.

carapace– the dorsal portion of a turtle’s shell.

carnivora– an order of mammals that is primarily terrestrial and possess large canine teeth. Includes dogs, bears, cats, raccoons and others.

carnivore– an organism that eats meat. A predatory organism that feeds on the bodies of other animals.

carrying capacity– the maximum number of organisms that an ecosystem can support on a continued basis, usually determined by the availability of space, water, food and light.

cephalopod– the class of marine invertebrates that includes squid, octopus, cuttlefish and others.

cerebral cortex– the portion of the vertebrate brain in which learning, reasoning, sensory perception, memory and the coordination of most bodily activity occurs.

cetacea– the order of marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises.

ciguatera– a disease caused by the ingestion of fish or other marine organisms that have a high concentration of a naturally occurring toxin, ciguatoxin, stored in their tissues.

clutch– the total number of eggs laid by a female bird or reptile in one breeding cycle.

competition– an interaction that occurs between individuals when both attempt to use the same resource.

consumer– organisms within an ecosystem that get their energy from feeding on other organisms or their products.

convergent evolution– the evolution of similar structures among unrelated organisms resulting from similar pressures from the environment.

cow– a mother whale.

critical habitat– in the Endangered Species Act, the habitat that is determined essential for a listed species’ survival or population recovery.

decimate– to reduce to ten per cent of the original population or total.

delphinidae– the family of cetaceans including dolphins.

dinoflagellates– planktonic, single-celled marine invertebrates that move through the water by flagella (hair-like appendages); some species responsible for producing the toxin ciguatoxin.

dorsal– pertaining to the back.

driftnet– a huge net made of nylon mesh measuring between 1.25 and 90 miles in length and 8 and 15 feet in depth that is left to “drift” in the ocean for periods of eight hours or more.

ESA– the Endangered Species Act. A law passed by the United States Congress in 1973 that is designed to protect species endangered or threatened with extinction.

echolocation- a method of orientation used by dolphins, whales and bats in which the size and position of objects are determined by emitting sounds and listening for the echoes that bounce back from them.

ecology– the scientific study of the interactions of living organisms and their environment.

ecosystem– all living organisms of a particular habitat together with the physical environment in which they live.

eco-tourism– tourist activities designed to teach people to appreciate and care for the natural environment and wildlife.

egg-tooth– found in sea turtles, a temporary protuberance on the beak that enables hatchlings to break through the egg shell.

emigration– the movement of individuals away from a population or an area.

endangered– applies to those species in danger of extinction within all or a significant portion of their range.

endemic– unique to a particular region; found nowhere else.

escort– an adult whale that accompanies a cow-calf pod.

eutrophication– the process by which a body of water becomes overloaded with nutrients (such as fertilizers), that leads to an excessive growth of algae and a severe depletion of oxygen and light.

fibropapilloma- a disease found in sea turtles that causes the growth of large bulbous tumors; usually fatal.

flukes– the two horizontally broadened fins that comprise a whale’s tail.

food chain– in an ecosystem, the sequence of prey species and the predators that consume them; a part of the food web.

food web– the complete set of food links between species in an ecosystem; a diagram illustrating which species feed upon which.

gill net– relatively small nylon fish nets that are anchored or left to drift near the coast.

head lunging– an aggressive behavior exhibited by whales whereby one whale forcefully lunges its head at another whale; believed to ward off competitors.

herbivore– an organism that eats plants or their products; a primary consumer.

high seas– those regions of the ocean that fall outside the 200 mile legal boundary of ocean that surrounds any country or territory; often referred to as “the global commons”

IWC– the International Whaling Commission; the international organization founded in 1946 to manage and conserve populations of the great whales for the benefit of future generations.

immigration– movement of individuals into a population or an area.

incidental catch– non-target species collected as a result of using non-selective fishing gear; see by-catch.

indigenous– naturally occurring in more than one place.

indiscriminate– non-selective; random.

Kanaloa– a Hawaiian god of the sea.

keratin– a sulfur-containing protein that makes up hard tissues such as nails, horns and the outermost cells of skin.

krill– small planktonic marine shrimp; a favorite food of baleen whales.

Kumulipo– the Hawaiian chant of creation.

life history strategy– the strategy a particular species employs to be most successful in its environment; relates to that species life cycle.

lateral bridge– in turtles, hard-shelled plates that connect the plastron to the carapace; found on both sides.

limited resource– those resources such as territory, food and mates that are in limited supply; competition often occurs over limited resources.

longlines– a fishing technology whereby long fishing lines measuring more than 1 nautical mile (1.15 miles) in length with several branch lines with multiple baited hooks are towed behind fishing vessels with the intent of catching large pelagic fishes such as mahi mahi, marlin and tuna.

MMPA– the Marine Mammal Protection Act. An Act passed by the United States Congress in 1972 that prohibits the hunting, killing, harassing, or injuring of marine mammals by any person under U.S. jurisdiction; limited exceptions apply.

mammals– animals belonging to the class of vertebrates that are warm-blooded, bear live young and nurse them with milk. Also associated with the possession of hair or fur for body covering.

Marine Mammal Commission– a scientific advisory board comprised of experts that oversees the administration of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

melon– a large lens-shaped organ found in the forehead of dolphins and toothed whales that concentrates and emits the sounds used in echolocation.

mobbing– a behavior exhibited by Hawaiian monk seals whereby several males violently attack juvenile female seals and pups in an attempt to mate.

molting– the regular shedding of an outer body covering such as fur, skin or feathers. Occurs in Hawaiian monk seals.

moratorium– the legal banning of a particular activity for a defined period of time.

mutualism– a type of symbiosis whereby both participating organisms benefit from the relationship.

mysticetes– the sub-order of whales that includes baleen whales.

natal beach– in sea turtles; the beach where the turtle was originally hatched, or born.

native– naturally occurring in a particular region.

niche– the sum total of how a particular species copes with both the living and non-living components of its environment; The place and function of a species within its ecosystem.

non-consumptive use– the use of something without consuming it or causing it harm; often applies to wildlife.

non-renewable resources– those natural resources of which only a finite quantity exists; they are not able to be renewed. Includes space and territory.

odobenidae– the family of pinnipeds that includes the walrus.

odontocetes– the sub-order of whales that includes toothed-whales.

order– the fourth level used in biological classification.

PCBs– polychlorinated biphenyls. A group of industrial chemicals (of the chlorinated hydrocarbon class) that are commonly used and have become serious and widespread pollutants. They are extremely resistant to breakdown and have contaminated most of the earth’s food chains, resulting in biomagnification at higher trophic levels. Known to cause cancer.

pelage– a mammal’s outer coat of fur.

phocidae– the family of pinnipeds which includes the “true seals,” or seals that lack external ears.

phocoenidae– the family of pinnipeds that includes the eared seals and sea lions.

photosynthesis– the chemical process carried out by plants through which energy from the sun is combined with carbon dioxide and water to make carbohydrates; provides the basis for almost all food chains.

phytoplankton– planktonic marine plants and algae; the basis of the marine food chain.

pinniped– the order of marine mammals which includes seals, sea lions and walruses.

pirate whaling– whaling that is considered illegal following the enactment of the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

plastron– the ventral portion of a turtle’s shell.

poacher- a person who takes wildlife or products derived from wildlife illegally.

pod– a social group of whales.

polygamous– applies to individuals or species that have more than one mate at a time.

population– a group of individuals, most often of the same species, that occupy a particular region at the same time.

predator– an organism that feeds upon another.

prey– in a feeding relationship, the organism that is killed and eaten by another.

primary producers– those organisms that produce the initial nutrients in a food chain; usually through photosynthesis.

purse seine– a fishing technique whereby nylon nets measuring up to 1 mile in length and 325 feet deep are used to encircle whole schools of fish and/or dolphins, and the bottom of the net is pulled closed, much like a drawstring purse, to retain the catch.

renewable resource– those natural resources that are able to be renewed such as food, water and light.

reptile– the class of vertebrates which includes snakes, lizards and turtles. Characterized by being cold-blooded, egg-laying and possessing skin with bony plates or scales.

rostrum– the snout or beak of a whale, porpoise or dolphin.

salt gland– a gland found in some animals (particularly marine) that is used to rid their bodies of excess salts.

scientific whaling– whaling for the purpose of scientific data collection that is legally permitted under the commercial whaling moratorium of 1986.

scutes– large horny scale-like structures that cover the carapace of most turtles.

sexual dimorphism– the ability to distinguish between males and females of the same species on the basis of external body characteristics.

species– all the populations of organisms that are capable of breeding under natural conditions and that are reproductively isolated from other organisms; the basic lower unit of biological classification.

spout– the exhaled breath of a whale; appears like a cloud of condensation above the water.

stewardship– the act of being responsible or caring for a person, place or thing.

subsistence– pertaining to the survival or continued existence of; means of support or livelihood.

survivorship curve– a plot where the number of individuals in a population is graphed against their age; it usually represents the average life expectancy of the population.

sustainable– able to be maintained over an indefinite period of time.

symbiosis– a close association formed between members of different species, usually over an extended period of time.

target species– those species which are intended to be hunted or fished.

taxonomy– the science of biological classification.

threatened– applies to those species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

toothed whales– whales and dolphins belonging to the sub-order odontocetes, that have teeth.

trade embargo– a prohibition of the importation of products from one country into another.

trophic level– the position of a species in a food chain, indicating its level of energy transfer in the ecosystem.

ventral– pertaining to the underside or belly.