Coral Reef Info
 

Glossary of Coral Reef Terminology - D


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dacriform - tear-drop shaped

dactyloid - finger-like

dactylozooid - a colonial hydrozoan polyp that possesses a large, nematocyst-bearing fishing tentacle, and functions in defense and in food capture

Dalton's Law - the total pressure exerted by a mixture of gases is the sum of the pressures that would be exerted by each of the gases if it alone were present and occupied the total volume

Photo of blue chromis

One of the prettier damselfishes, the blue chromis (Chromis cyanea), swimming on a hawaiian coral reef (Photo: Keoki and Yuko stender)


damselfish - a large family (Pomacentridae) of bony fishes which are abundant and common inhabitants of coral reefs. They possess robust, deep, and laterally compressed bodies. The majority of damselfishes do not have particularly brilliant markings or coloration. Exceptions are the brilliantly colored anemone fishes, the banded sergant major, and the bright orange garibaldi, Many species of damselfishes are highly territorial

dark-field microscope - a microscope that has a special condenser and objective with a diaphragm that scatters light from the observed object. The object appears bright on a dark background

Image of coral with dark-spots disease

Dark spots disease infecting Stephanocoenia intersepta. (Photo: NOAA; image copyrighted)


dark-spots disease - a coral disease characterized by darkly pigmented areas of tissue on stony corals.-At present, there is no known pathogen. The coral tissue remains intact, although at times lesions and coral tissue death are observed in the centers of the pigmented areas. Tissue loss is minimal, if present. This disease is widespread throughout the Caribbean.-For additional information and illustrations, see: http://www.coral.noaa.gov/coral_disease/dark_spots.shtml

dart - a structure of an invertebrate animal that pierces or wounds; a small, narrow-pointed missile that is thrown or shot

darwin - a logarithmic unit measuring the rate of evolution in characteristics of organisms

Darwin medal - the most prestigious award given by the International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS), presented every four years at the International Coral Reef Symposium. It is awarded to a senior ISRS member who is recognized worldwide for major contributions throughout their career

Darwin Mounds - two areas of hundreds of sand and cold-water coral mounds at depths of about 1,000 m, in the northeast corner of the Rockall trough, approximately 185 km northwest of the northwest tip of Scotland. The Darwin Mounds cover an area of approximately 100 sq. km. The tops of the mounds are covered with Lophelia pertusa corals and coral rubble

Darwin point - the latitude at which reef growth just equals reef destruction by various physical forces

Darwinian evolution - evolution of life forms by the process of natural selection acting on random genetic variations

data - multiple facts (usually but not necessarily empirical) used as a basis for inference, testing, models, etc.; the word is plural (sing. datum) and takes a plural verb

data management - the act, process, or means by which data are managed. This includes the planning, collection, compilation, archival, safe-guarding, listing, organization, extraction, retrieval, manipulation, and dissemination of data

data management and observing system interoperability - the ability of two or more systems to exchange and mutually use data, metadata, information, or system parameters using established protocols or standards

data management services - a subset of data management and includes adherence to agreed-upon standards; ingesting data, developing collections, and creating products; maintaining data bases; ensuring permanent, secure archival; providing both user-friendly and machine-interoperable access; assisting users; migrating services to emerging technologies; and responding to user feedback

data mining - an information extraction activity whose goal is to discover hidden facts contained in databases. Using a combination of machine learning, pattern recognition, statistical analysis, modeling techniques and database technology, data mining finds patterns and subtle relationships in data and infers rules that allow the prediction of future results

data stewardship - a subset of data management and consists of the application of rigorous analyses and oversight to ensure that data sets meet the needs of users. This includes documenting measurement practices and processing practices (metadata); providing feedback on observing system performance; inter-comparison of data sets for validation; reprocessing (incorporate new data, apply new algorithms, perform bias corrections, integrate/blend data sets from different sources or observing systems); and recommending corrective action for errant or non-optimal operations

data warehouse - a database, frequently very large, that can access vast arrays of heterogeneous data, stored within a single logical data repository, that are accessible to different querying and manipulation methods . While the warehouse can be distributed over several computers and may contain several databases and information from numerous sources in a variety of formats, it should be accessible through a server. Thus, access to the warehouse is transparent to the user, who can use simple commands to retrieve and analyze all the information. The data warehouse also contains data about how the warehouse is organized, where the information can be found, and any connections between data. Frequently used for decision support within an organization, the data warehouse also allows the organization to organize its data, coordinate updates, and see relationships between information gathered from different parts of the organization

database - a structured file of information or a set of logically related data stored and retrieved using computer-based means

database management system (DBMS) - a set of computer programs for organizing the information in a database. A DBMS supports the structuring of the database in a standard format and provides tools for data input, verification, storage, retrieval, query, and manipulation

daughter cell - one of the two cells formed by the division of a parent cell

Image of sea surface temperature plot

1985-2000 average sea surface temperature from AVHRR Pathfinder.


Day/Night SST - observations of sea surface temperature obtained during both daytime and nighttime orbits from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on NOAA's polar satellite

de facto - in fact; in reality; existing but not officially recognized or legally established

dead ahead - a position directly in front of a vessel

dead zone - hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world's oceans and in some large lakes where all or most life forms are unable to survive. Dead zones can be caused by an increase in chemical nutrients (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus) in the water. Chemical fertilizer is considered the prime cause of dead zones around the world. A prominent dead zone in North America is an approximately 22,126 km2 (8,543 mi²) region in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Mississippi River discharges high-nutrient runoff from its large drainage basin. Sizes of dead zones fluctuate seasonally, being affected by agricultural practices and weather events

decadal - refers to a climatic process that re-occurs every decade or once every few decades

decalcification - the loss of calcium salts from living tissues

Image of spider crab

A spider crab is a decapod crustacean.


decapod crustacean - a members of the Order Decapoda, Class Malacostraca, Superclass Crustacea, Phylum Arthropoda; has five pairs of thoracic legs. Examples are shrimps, lobsters, crabs, and hermit crabs

decibel - a logarithmic scale used to denote the intensity (loudness), of a sound relative to the threshold of human hearing. A step of 10 dB is a 10-fold increase in intensity or sound energy

decibel - unit for measuring sound intensity

deciduous - periodically shed

decomposer - a heterotrophic organism that breaks down dead biological matter and uses some of the products and releases others for use by consumer organisms

decomposition - the breakdown of organic matter by bacteria and fungi

decompression - a change from one ambient pressure to a lower ambient pressure as the scuba diver ascends. Decompression also occurs in a decompression chamber. Decompression results in a reduction of gas pressures within the body

Image of decompression chamber

A NOAA decompression chamber.


decompression chamber - a hyperbaric steel enclosure used to treat victims of decompression sickness (the "bends") in which the air pressure is first gradually increased and then gradually decreased. This shrinks the nitrogen bubbles and allows the nitrogen to safely diffuse out of the victim's tissues

decompression dive - any dive where the scuba diver is exposed to a higher pressure than when the dive began. Decompression occurs as the diver ascends

decompression diving - scuba diving that requires in-water stops during ascent to the surface to allow off-gassing of nitrogen

decompression sickness (the bends) - a dangerous and potentially lethal condition of divers precipitated by rapid changes in ambient atmospheric pressure, mostly in rapid ascent from underwater, but can also result from flying in an aircraft too soon after a dive. It occurs because at high pressures (such as SCUBA divers experience while underwater) the blood can contain more dissolved nitrogen than at lower pressures. When the diver ascends too rapidly, the blood can no longer contain this dissolved nitrogen and tiny gas bubbles begin to form in the blood. Symptoms include: body pain (mainly in the joints), headache, confusion, itchy skin rash, visual disturbances, weakness or paralysis, dizziness, or vertigo. treatment involves the administration of oxygen and placing the patient into a decompression chamber until the nitrogen bubbles shrink and safely diffuse from the tissues

Image of divers

These NOAA divers are making a decompression stop to allow nitrogen to escape from their tissues. (Photo: NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service)


decompression stop - a specified time spent at a specific depth as a scuba diver ascends from a dive for purposes of releasing nitrogen gas from the tissues (nitrogen off-gassing)

deductive reasoning - an inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general theory. In science, deductive reasoning would involve stating an hypothesis first, and then trying to find facts that reject the hypothesis

deep fore reef - the deepest seaward part of a coral reef; a vertical cliff beginning at a depth of about 60 m

deep scattering layer - a thin sound-reflecting layer of zooplankton and nekton that ascends toward the surface at night and descends each day (diurnal vertical migration) in response to changing levels of light

deep water - the water beneath the permanent thermocline that usually has a low and uniform temperature

Image of deep-sea coral

Lophelia pertusa, a deep-sea stony coral.


deep-sea corals - stony, soft, gorgonian, black, and horny corals that inhabit the colder deep waters of continental shelves and offshore canyons, ranging from 50 -1000m+ depths. They lack zooxanthellae and may build reef-like structures or occur solitarily

definitive host - in a parasite's life cycle, it is the host organism in which the parasite reproduces sexually

deforestation - the removal of trees from a habitat dominated by forest

degeneracy - in relation to the genetic code, more than one codon can code for the same amino acid

degenerate character - a character, trait or structure that has evolved to a less developed state from its ancestral form or function

degenerate code - the genetic code in which more than one triplet of nucleotides codes for the same amino acid

degeneration - a process by which tissue deteriorates, loses functional activity, and may become converted into or replaced by other kinds of tissue; deterioration which causes some degree of loss of original function; the process of declining from a higher to a lower form

degradation - the breaking down of a substance into smaller or simpler parts

Degree Heating Week (DHW) - the NOAA satellite-derived Degree Heating Week (DHW) is an experimental product designed to indicate the accumulated thermal stress that coral reefs experience. A DHW is equivalent to one week of sea surface temperature 1 deg C above the expected summertime maximum. For example, 2 DHWs indicate one week of 2 deg C above the expected summertime maximum

Degree Heating Week accumulation - accumulated thermal stress that coral reefs experience over a typical 12-week period

degrees of freedom - in statistics, the number of independent comparisons that can be made between the members of a sample; in a contingency table it is one less than the number of row categories multiplied by one less than the number of column categories. The number of degrees of freedom is defined as the number of observations that can be chosen freely, i.e., an estimate of the number of independent categories in a particular statistical test or experiment

deimatic behavior - defensive postures or other visual displays, including color changes, that function to intimidate or frighten another animal

delayed fertilization - when fertilization of an egg does not occur immediately following introduction of spermatozoa into the female reproductive tract, but may be delayed for weeks or months

Image of Nile River delta

Nile River delta, as seen from Earth orbit. (Photo: NASA)


delta - the fan-shaped area at the mouth or lower end of a river formed by eroded material that has been carried downstream and dropped in quantities larger than can be carried off by tides or currents

delta notation - the absolute abundance of an isotope is difficult to measure with accuracy. Therefore, we compare isotopic ratios in a sample with those in a standard resulting in the delta-notation: d(x) = [{Rx - Rst}/Rst] x 103, where d(x) is the delta-value of a sample, Rx and Rst are the isotopic ratios in sample (Rx) & standard (Rst). The d-value is the relative difference in the isotopic ratio of the sample and the standard. It is expressed in part per mille (o/oo); that is why the right-hand side of the equation is multiplied by 103 (1000). Carbon and oxygen data from carbonates are usually referred to the PDB standard (a belemnite, Belemnitella americana, from the Late Cretaceous PeeDee Formation in South Carolina)

delta plain - a nearly horizontal portion of a delta which during low tide is largely exposed to the atmosphere

deme - a local interbreeding population of a species

demersal - pertains to an organism that is essentially bottom living but may feed and swim in the water column

demography - the rate of growth and the age structure of populations, and the processes that determine these properties

Image of demospongiae

A yellow barrel sponge in the class Demospongiae (Photo: Rick Gillis)


Demospongiae - a class of asymmetrical sponges (phylum Porifera) which range in size from a few millimeters to over two meters in largest dimension. They are composed of spongin fibers alone or together with siliceous spicules that are differentiated into megascleres (larger size) or microscleres (smaller size) of diverse shapes. The class includes approximately 5000 species in 10 orders. They are the most diverse group of sponges and only exhibit the leuconoid grade of construction. Their geographic distribution in the oceans is from the intertidal to the abyssal zone. Some species inhabit freshwater. Their shapes include thin encrustations, lumps, finger-like growths, or urns. Pigment granules in amoebocytes often make members of this class brightly colored, including bright yellow, orange, red, purple, or green. The most economically important group are the bath sponges

denaturation - the inducing of structural alterations that disrupt the biological activity of a molecule. It often refers to breaking hydrogen bonds between base pairs (by heat) in double-stranded nucleic acid molecules to produce single-stranded polynucleotides, or altering the secondary and tertiary structure of a protein, destroying its activity

denatured alcohol - ethyl alcohol (ethanol) to which a poisonous substance, such as acetone or methanol, has been added to make it unfit for consumption

denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) - a method for separating DNA fragments according to their mobilities under increasingly denaturing conditions

dendriform - having a structure that resembles a tree or shrub

dendrite - a sensory branch of a neuron that carries a nervous inpulse to the cell body

Image of black coral

Black coral is dendritic in shape. (Photo: Waikiki Aquarium)


dendritic - branched like a tree

dendrogram - a branching tree-like diagram used to represent phylogenetic paths of evolution

denitrification - the formation of gaseous nitrogen and/or nitrogen oxides from nitrate or nitrite by denitrifying bacteria during anaerobic respiration

denitrify - to remove nitrogen from any substance or chemical compound

denitrifying bacteria - anaerobic bacteria in soil or water that use the nitrate ion as a substitute for molecular oxygen during their metabolism. The nitrate is reduced to nitrogen gas (N2), which is lost to the environment during the process

dentate - having teeth or tooth-like points; serrate

denticle - a little tooth

denticulate - having an edge with small projecting teeth

deoxyribonucleic triphosphates - unreactive nucleotides that closely resemble the nucleotides that make up DNA. They are 'dummy' nucleotides that act as placeholders when DNA is sequenced

depauperate - an area poor in species richness and/or biodiversity; an impoverished habitat

dependent species - a species dependent on another for survival, e.g., a predator on a prey, a commensal or other kind of symbiont

dependent variable - the variable being measured

deposit - material left in a new position by a natural transporting agent, such as water, wind, ice, or gravity, or by human activity

deposit feeder - an animal that feeds on nutrients in the sediments

An illustration of a southern sting ray

The southern stingray has a depressed body shape. (Illustration: NOAA)


depressed - a body shape which is flattened dorso-ventrally, e.g., a ray, skate, monkfish

depth contour - a line on a nautical chart connecting points of equal depth

derived character - in evolution, an advanced trait which only appears in some members of a taxonomic group. For example,a derived character for some mammals would be the loss of the tail, which occurs in the great apes and man. Another derived character is the presence of feathers in birds. Scales are the ancestral feature. Derived characters are also called apomorphies

dermal - pertaining to or affecting the skin

dermal flap - a small skin flap

dermis - the layer of the skin beneath the epidermis. The dermis is largely fibrous and contains collagen and elastin which are the proteins responsible for the support and elasticity of the skin. Depending upon the species, the dermis also contains tiny sensory nerve endings, blood and lymph vessels, and sweat and sebaceous glands

dermochelyid sea turtle - a leathery-shelled turtle in the family Dermochelyidae. The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the only dermochelyid sea turtle. All other species of sea turtle belong to the family Cheloniidae. Dermochelys coriacea is a federally endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act

Photograph of a baby leatherback turtle

This leatherback turtle hatchling belongs to the turtle family, Dermochelyidae. (Photo: S.R. Livingstone, University of Glasgow)


Dermochelyidae - a family of marine turtle that contains only a single species, the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest of all extant turtles. They are carnivorous, feeding almost exclusively on jellyfish

desalinization - the removal of salts from saline water to provide freshwater

designated Use - classification specified in water quality standards for each waterbody or segment describing the level of protection from perturbation afforded by the regulatory programs. The designated aquatic life uses established by the state or authorized tribes set forth the goals for restoration and/or baseline conditions for maintenance and prevention from future degradation of the aquatic life in specific waterbodies

desmocyte - a connective tissue cell which differentiates into cells which form the fibrous and supporting tissues of an animals's body; also called a " fibroblast"; in corals, an anchoring cell of the calicoblastic epithelium or axis epithelium of gorgonians

Image of desmoneme

The desmoneme of the hydrozoan Hydra vulgaris. (Photo: Alfred H. Gitter)


desmoneme - in hydrozoans, a small nematocyst with a short, unarmed, spirally coiled tubule, which functions in entangling and wrapping around appendages or bristles of prey animals

destruction resuspension - the process in which sediment particles on the substrate are brought back into water column suspension by waves, tides, or wind

determinate cleavage - cleavage resulting in blastomeres each capable of developing only into a particular embryonic structure, not into a complete organism

Image of detritus (broken shells) on beach

Low tide along South Carolina shoreline with bits of sea shells and other detritus (Photo: Richard B. Mieremet, NOAA)


detritus - the particulate decomposition or disintegration products of plankton, including dead cells, cell fragments, fecal pellets, shells, and skeletons, and sometimes mineral particles in coastal waters

detritus food chain - a trophic relationship among a variety of species that is sustained at its base by organisms that gather bits of nonliving organic material

detrivore - an animal that eats detritus

deuterostome - one of two distinct evolutionary lines of coelomates, consisting of the echinoderms and chordates and characterized by radial cleavage of the early embryo. The cleaving cells are indeterminate (if early embryonic cells are separated, each one develops into a complete organism). The anus develops from the blastopore

developed country - describes nations or countries with social, cultural, industrial and technological advancement

developing country - describes regions and countries that are still in the process of acquiring modern technology and becoming economically productive. These regions are sometimes called the “Third World”

development - the chronological series of changes, from a lower to a higher state of organization, which multicellular organisms undergo from the fertilized egg (zygote) to maturity

developmental response - morphological and physiological characteristics an organism developed in response to prolonged exposure to environmental conditions

deviation - in statistics, the difference between an actual observation and the mean of all observations

Photo of Filefish

Filefishes possess prominent dewlaps on their throat-breast region (Photo: NOAA)


dewlap - a fold of loose skin

dextral - right, as opposed to sinistral, or left

diadromous species - a species which undertakes a spawning migration from ocean to river or vice versa

diagenesis - all of the changes that occur to a deposited sediment during its conversion to rock; includes changes that result from chemical, physical as well as biological processes

diagnosis - identifying the nature or cause of some phenomenon; in pathology, (1) the act or process or deciding the nature of a disease by examination and observation, (2) a careful investigation of the facts to determine the nature of a thing, and (3) the decision resulting from either of these

diagnosis, clinical - a diagnosis based upon signs and laboratory analyses while the organism is alive

diagnosis, definitive - the name of a disease or pathological condition, as in “white plague”

diagnosis, differential - in taxonomy, a statement of the characters that distinguish a given taxon from other, specifically mentioned equivalent taxon; the process of identifying a pathological condition by differentiating all pathologic processes that may produce similar lesions

diagnosis, etiological - a diagnosis reflecting identification of the cause or causative agent of a disease

diagnosis, morphological - a diagnosis based upon a description of the alteration of form or structure of the tissues or organs, usually at the gross, histological, cellular or subcellular level

diagnosis, physical - a diagnosis based on information obtained by inspection or palpation (feeling with the hand)

diagnosis, presumptive - an unconfirmed diagnosis based on interpretation of initial and incomplete information

diagnostic characters - in taxonomy, the characters, or most important characters, which distinguish a taxon from other similar or closely related taxa

diapause - a state of arrested development or growth, accompanied by greatly decreased metabolism

diaphanous - thin and translucent; semi-transparent

diastema - a space; a gap

Image of a living diatom

A living diatom (Pleurosigma angulatum) from Arctic seas.


diatom - a unicellular alga that consists of two interlocking valves composed of silica

diatomaceous - pertaining to diatoms or their fossil remains

dichopatric - pertains to allopatric populations with non-contiguous ranges

dichopatric speciation - a type of speciation in which a formerly contiguous population is split by the rise of some geographical barrier, e.g., a mountain range

dichotomous key - a tool to help identify taxa. It is made up of pairs of choices. Each choice is between statements describing specific traits of the taxa under consideration. Only one statement will be true for each choice. Each choice points to another set of choices until finally only one choice remains

diel - a 24-hour period that usually includes a day and its adjoining night; pertaining to the day-night cycle

differential diagnosis - see "diagnosis, differential"

diffusion - the movement of particles from a region of higher concentration to a region of lower concentration

digestion - the breakdown, by hydrolysis, of complex ingested nutrient compounds (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) into their building blocks, i.e., the conversion of food, in the alimentary canal, into soluble and diffusible products, capable of being absorbed into the circulating fluid and the cells

Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) - an advanced type of CD-ROM that holds a minimum of 4.7 gigabytes (unit of storage) to a maximum of 17 gigabytes of information. They are compressed using the MPEG codec, which stores only the changes from one frame to another instead of the entire frame

digitiform - finger-shaped

dimorphism - having two different distinct forms of individuals within the same species or two different distinct forms of parts within the same organism. It could refer to different colors or color patterns, sizes, anatomical parts, etc. Sexual dimorphism is a common case, where the two sexes have different shapes, sizes, etc.

dinghy - a small open boat

Illustration of dinoflagellates

Diverse shapes of planktonic dinoflagellates in tropical Atlantic waters. (Illustration: NOAA)


dinoflagellate - a unicellular, generally motile, chiefly marine protist with two whip-like flagella. Some autotrophic species, called zooxanthellae, are endosymbionts of corals and other invertebrates. Dinoflagellates are probably best known as a principal cause of marine bioluminesence, "red tides" and paralytic shellfish poisoning

dioecious - having separate sexes. Individuals within the species contain only one or the other of male and female reproductive systems

diopter - a metric unit used in optics to measure the refractive power of a lens

dioxin - a chlorinated organic chemical byproduct (dibenzo-p-dioxins), released into the environment from incineration and during industrial processes that use chlorine. Dioxins are highly toxic and can have immediate and long-term health effects, including skin disease, cancer, and reproductive failure

dip net - a small mesh bag, sometimes attached to a handle, shaped and framed in various ways. It is operated by hand or partially by mechanical power to capture specimens

diphycercal - a caudal fin shape which is primitively symmetrical and pointed, and with the vertebral column or notochord extending to the tip, as found in primitive fishes, such as lampreys and chimaeras

diploid - the condition in which a cell contains a nucleus with two complete sets of chromosomes, one set inherited from each parent. The diploid condition is often abbreviated as 2n. Most plants and animals are diploid. The term also represents the number of chromosomes in most cells except the gametes, which are haploid in chromosome number

direct sun - refers to a measurement based only on direct radiation from the sun's disk and excluding indirect radiation from the remainder of the sky

directed fishing - fishing that is targeted at a certain species or group of species. This applies to both commercial and sport fishing

directional asymmetry - a pattern of deviation with a side bias. A side difference occurs for a given trait, with the larger side generally the same among individuals; the right minus the left value of a trait

directional selection - a type of natural selection that removes individuals from one end of a phenotypic distribution and thus causes a shift in the distribution. The frequency of an allele is changed in a constant direction, either toward or away from fixation for that allele. Directional selection occurs when individuals at one phenotypic extreme have an advantage over individuals with more common phenotypes

disaccharide - a sugar (carbohydrate) formed by the covalent bonding of two monosaccharides. Table sugar, sucrose, is a disaccharide

disciform - round or oval-shaped

discodermolide - a marine pharmaceutical isolated from deep-water sponges of the genus Discodermia. Discodermolide possesses immuno-suppressive and anticancer properties which inhibit cell division by interfering with the cell's microtubule network

discoidal - disc-shaped; flat and round shape

discrete probability distribution - a probability distribution is called discrete if its cumulative distribution function only increases in jumps; a probability distribution is discrete if there is a finite or countable set whose probability is 1

discrimination - differential response to different stimuli

Image of diseased coral

Coral with yellow band disease, which results in serious losses of coral tissue.


disease - any impairment of an organism's vital functions or systems, including interruption, cessation, proliferation, or other malfunction

disease vector - an organism which transmits infective organisms from one host to another

disjunct - distinctly separate; disjunct populations are populations separated from other potentially interbreeding populations by a distance large enough to prevent exchange of genetic materials

disjunct distribution - the discontinuous or separated geographical distribution of a species or other taxonomic unit

dispersal - the spread of a species to a new location. In many organisms, this happens at a particular stage in the life cycle, and is often critical for the species' survival. Organisms may disperse as spores, seeds, eggs, larvae, juveniles, or adults

disphotic zone - the part of the water column that is barely illuminated by sunlight from above; the "twilight zone" between the photic and aphotic zones

displacement behavior - a behavioral response that is appropriate for one situation appears in another situation, for which it is inappropriate

Photo of male Siamese fighting fish

An agonistic display by the male Siamese fighting fish, Betta splendens. (Photo: Jennifer Beavin)


display - in animal behavior, visual messages or body language, used by animals primarily to communicate anger, fear, and other basic emotions. Displays are strong indications of an animal's emotional state

Disputed Island - formerly or currently considered U.S. possession by the U.S. The U.S., through negotiation, has disclaimed ownership of most islands in favor of another country. Two islands remain contested

Image of juvenile spotted drum

The color pattern of the juvenile spotted drum, Equetus punctatus, is an example of disruptive coloration. (Photo: Dr. Tom Doeppner, Brown University)


disruptive coloration - a color pattern that breaks up the outline of an organism

disruptive selection - natural selection that favors individuals that deviate from the population average. For example, positive selection which favors individuals that are larger or smaller than average

dissepiment - a horizontal partition within or outside of a corallite

dissociation - the temporary or reversible chemical process in which a molecule or ion is broken down into smaller molecules or ions

dissolved oxygen - the concentration of oxygen dissolved in water, expressed in mg/l or as percent saturation, where saturation is the maximum amount of oxygen that can theoretically be dissolved in water at a given temperature and pressure

distal - the direction away from the midline of the body; the opposite of proximal

distant linked habitats - connected environments that are intended to conserve "all" biodiversity in an area- typically large and usually include both aquatic and terrestrial targets

distinct - clearly defined and easily recognized

distinct population segment - "population," or "distinct population segment," are terms with specific meaning when used for listing, delisting, and reclassification purposes to describe a discrete vertebrate stock that may be added or deleted from the list of endangered and threatened

distribution - the area where a species is known to occur

disturbance - any relatively discrete event in time that disrupts ecosystem, community, or population structure and changes resources, substrate availability, or the physical environment; an event or change in the environment that alters the composition and successional status of a biological community

disulfide bond - a chemical bond between the sulfur atoms of two different amino acids in a protein

diurnal - active during the day light hours

dive computer - a small electronic sensor and calculator, carried by the scuba diver, that calculates and displays the basic information needed during a dive, i.e., depth, time, decompression status and tank pressure. By constantly monitoring depth and bottom time, dive computers automatically recalculate the diver's no-decompression status, giving longer dive times while still keeping the diver within a safe envelope of no-decompression time. Computers also monitor ascent rates, logs dives, and measures time intervals between dives

dive computer algorithm - a suite of equations that compute nitrogen uptake and elimination in tissues from changes in the diver's depth and elapsed time underwater

Image of dive table

The PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) recreational dive planner (dive table) has three tables. Table 1 gives the maximum amount of time the diver can stay at a certain depth on the first dive, and it also indicates how much nitrogen the diver has in in the tissues after a dive. Table 2 is concerned with the diver's surface interval time (how long a diver must remain at the surface before the next dive), and Table 3 allows the diver to determine safe diving limits on the next dive. (Photo: PADI)


dive table - dive tables present dive times for specific depths, adherence to which, the scuba diver can avoid contracting decompression sickness (the bends). The theory behind dive tables is based on our understanding of how nitrogen is taken up on compression (descent) and given off on decompression (ascent). The first dive tables were devised by John S. Haldane in the period 1906-1908

divergent evolution - the evolution from one species of organism into a number of different species. As the original population increases in size, it spreads out from its center of origin to exploit other habitats and ecological niches. In time, this results in a number of populations, each adapted to its particular habitat. Eventually these populations, genetically may differ from each other sufficiently to become new species. Divergent evolution has also been termed "adaptive radiation"

diversity index - a mathematical index of species diversity within a community

diverticulum - a blind sac branching off a cavity or canal

Image of diving bell

The SAT system diving bell is raised to the surface after an eight hour dive on the wreck of the USS Monitor. The bell is the divers' "taxi" between their topside saturation living quarters and their work site, some 240 ft below the surface. (Photo: official U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Chief Petty Officer (DV/SW) Andrew McKaskle)


diving bell - a hollow, usually inverted vessel, such as one used for diving deep in a body of water. It is open on the bottom and supplied with air under pressure. During the Monitor 2001 Expedition, navy divers utilized a 12-person, two-chamber saturation system with a two-person closed diving bell. The system can operate as deep as 1,500 ft—considerably deeper than the Monitor, which rests on the sea floor at a depth of 235 ft. Saturation systems are often used in deep-water situations (below 200 ft) in order to reduce the time lost to decompression during the slow ascent to the surface required for preventing decompression sickness

division - in botanical nomenclature, "division" is used instead of "phylum", and is equal in taxonomic status to the phylum

Graphic depicting DNA double helix

Graphic of DNA shows the spiral double helix structure of the molecule.


DNA (deoxyribosenucleic acid) - also termed deoxyribonucleic acid. The molecule that encodes genetic information in the cells. It resembles a double helix held together by weak bonds of four nucleotides (adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine) that are repeated ad infinitum in various sequences. These sequences combine into genes that govern the production of proteins. The DNA located within the nuclear membrane of eukaryotic cells is sometimes referred to as nDNA

DNA annealling - the reformation of double stranded DNA from thermally denatured DNA. The rate of reassociation depends upon the degree of repetition and is slowest for unique sequences

DNA barcode - DNA barcoding is a taxonomic method which uses a short genetic marker in an organism's mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to quickly and easily identify it as belonging to a particular species. This approach to species identification has its supporters and detractors

DNA chip - a small piece of glass or silicon that has small pieces of DNA arrayed on its surface

DNA fingerprinting - a method employed to determine differences in amino acid sequences between related proteins. It is used especially for identification by extracting and identifying the base-pair pattern of an organism's DNA

DNA hybridization - the process of joining two complementary strands of DNA, or one each of DNA and RNA, to form a double-stranded molecule; a technique in which single stranded nucleic acids are allowed to interact so that complexes or hybrids are formed by molecules with sufficiently similar, complementary sequences. By this means the degree of sequence identity can be assessed and specific sequences detected

DNA library - a collection of cloned DNA fragments that collectively represent the genome of an organism

DNA ligase - an enzyme that rejoins cut pieces of DNA

DNA marker - segments of chromosomal DNA known to be linked with heritable traits or diseases. Although the markers themselves do not produce the conditions, they exist in concert with the genes responsible and are passed on with them

DNA polymerase - an enzyme that replicates DNA. DNA polymerase is the basis of PCR ( polymerase chain reaction)

DNA probe - in genomics, the DNA affixed to a microarray; a small piece of nucleic acid that has been labeled with a radioactive isotope, dye, or enzyme that is used to locate a particular nucleotide sequence or gene on a DNA molecule

DNA replication - DNA replication or DNA synthesis is the process of copying the double-stranded DNA prior to cell division. The two resulting double strands are identical (occasionally errors (mutation) in replication can result in a less than perfect copy) and each of them consists of one original and one newly synthesized strand

DNA sequence - the order of nucleotide bases in the DNA molecule

DO (dissolved oxygen) - the concentration of free oxygen dissolved in water and readily available to aerobic organisms. DO is usually expressed in milligrams per liter, parts per million, or percent of saturation

Dobson Unit (DU) - the unit of measure for total ozone or other gases

DOC (dissolved organic carbon) - a measure of the organic compounds that are dissolved in water

DODS (Distributed Oceanographic Data System) - see "OPeNDAP"

Dolastatin 10 - a marine pharmaceutical extracted from the marine sea hare (a snail) Dolabella auricularia. It is an anti-cancer drug which interferes with cell division processes

dolioform - barrel-shaped

doliolaria larva - the larval stage of sea cucumbers immediately following the auricularia stage. It is cylindrical in shape and possesses five transverse bands of cilia

dolomite - a sedimentary rock, similar to limestone, composed largely of calcium magnesium carbonate (CaMg (CO3)2)

Photograph of a diving bell

Divers in the air-filled diving bell dome can talk to each other and to the surface scientists. (Photo: NOAA/NURP)


dome-shaped - a form that resembles half of a sphere

dominant species - a species which make up a large proportion of a community in terms of its biomass or numbers of individuals

domoic acid - an acidic cyanotoxin found associated with certain diatom blooms. Domoic acid can bioaccumulate in marine organisms that feed on the phytoplankton, such as shellfish and some fishes. In mammals, including humans, domoic acid is a neurotoxin responsible for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) , causing short term memory loss, brain damage, and in severe cases, death

doppler radar - radar that can measure radial velocity, the instantaneous component of motion parallel to the radar beam (i.e., toward or away from the radar antenna)

doppler shift - the change in the tone of a sound caused by the sound source moving away or towards the listener

Photo of dorid nudibranch (Chromodoris kunei)

This dorid nudibranch (Chromodoris kunei) feeds on sponges and stores their toxic chemicals in its body for protection. Its striking coloration advertise that it is not good to eat. (Photo: Ocean Futures Society/Richard C. Murphy)


dorid nudibranch - a type of nudibranch (order Nudibranchia) possessing a feather-like external gill on the back and a rhinophoral sheath. The mantle is thick and extends over the foot. The surface of the mantle may bear tubercles which vary in size, shape and number, and are often a taxonomic diagnostic character

dormancy - a period of suspended growth and metabolic activity. Many plants, seeds, spores, cysts, and some invertebrates become dormant during unfavorable conditions

Image of a queen angelfish

The upper or back surface of this queen angelfish is the dorsal surface, as opposed to the opposite belly surface, which is the ventral surface. (Photo: Chris Huss, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)


dorsal - refers to the upper or back surface of an animal

Image of dragonets

Dragonets, such as Callionymus lyra, exhibit strong sexual dimorphism in the dorsal fin (male [top] and female [bottom]). (Image: NOAA)


dorsal fin - in fishes, one or more fins situated on the midline of the back, having spines or rays, sometimes both; excludes the adipose fin found in some fishes, such as catfishes and salmon

dorsoventral - an axis extending from the dorsal to ventral surface of an animal body

dot grid - a technique used to analyze a photograph of a quadrat (photo-quadrat), in which a grid of random dots is placed over an image of the photo-quadrat. It assumes that the proportion of dots that lies on a substrate is equal to the proportional area of the substrate

double helix - the normal structural configuration of DNA consisting of two helices winding about the same axis. The structure of DNA was first proposed by Watson and Crick (1953) with two interlocking helices joined by hydrogen bonds between paired bases

doubling time - the length of time required for a population to double in size

download - transferring data (usually a file) from one computer to another. The opposite of "upload"

downstream - in the direction of the water movement

downwelling - a downward current of surface water in the ocean, usually caused by differences in the density of seawater

drag - the frictional impedance (retarding force) acting on an object moving through a fluid parallel and opposite to the direction of motion

Photograph of a dredge being recovered at sea

Scientists recover a chain dredge. (Photo: Joseph Schebal /NOAA)


dredge - a metal collar with an attached collecting bag that is dragged along the bottom to obtain samples of rock, sediment, or benthic organisms

dredging - a method for deepening streams, swamps or coastal waters by scraping and removing solids from the bottom. The resulting mud is usually deposited in marshes in a process called filling. Dredging and filling can disturb natural ecological cycles. For example, dredging can destroy coral reefs and other aquatic life; filling can destroy the feeding and breeding grounds for many fish and invertebrate species

Image of turtle caught in a drift net

A marine turtle is caught in a drift net. (Photo: NOAA)


drift net - a fishing net, often miles in extent, arranged to drift with the tide or current and buoyed-up by floats or attached to a boat

drop net - a small, usually circular net with weights around the perimeter and a float in the center

drop root - an adventitious root in mangroves that originates from the branches, and roots in the surface-sediments

drowned reef - a coral reef that grew too slowly and became covered by deeper and deeper water until the reef received too little light to support reef growth altogether; see "give-up reef"

drowned river - a former river inundated by a rise in sea level in past times

Drupella - a genus of Indopacific muricid gastropod that preys almost exclusively on living coral tissues. Some, if not all of these corallivorous species, release a proteolytic enzyme in their saliva that partially digests its prey. Drupella species may cause considerable damage to reefs

dry weight - the moisture-free weight of a biological sample obtained by drying at high (oven-drying) or low (freeze-drying) temperatures for an time sufficient to remove all water

dsRNA (double stranded RNA) - long double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs; typically >200 nt) can be used to silence the expression of target genes in a variety of organisms and cell types

duct - any tubular structure

duplex DNA - double-stranded DNA

DVD-ram - a high-capacity, high-performance optical disk that allows data to be read, written, and erased. It is comparable to a rewritable CD, and can hold up to 2.6 gigabytes of information per side

dychotomic growth - growth of a coral colony in which the corals divide symmetrically. Since all polyps grow simultaneously, neighboring polyps are the same age

dynamic optical demarcation - in animal behavior, a special signalling device used by an animal in a stereotypical movement, as for example, the waving of a fiddler crab's claw to attract the attention of other members of its species

dyne - unit of force to accelerate 1 gram to 1 cm per second per second

dysidotronic acid - an antiinflammatory drug derived from marine sponges in the genus Dysidea

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