CARTA Glossary

Displaying 1 - 100 of 260 defined words
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"Mating Success" Hypothesis

In relation to hunting, a hypothesis that has been documented or proposed for humans, some earlier hominins, and chimpanzees that the tactical sharing of meat develops and maintains social bonds and/or increases mating success. In humans, this success is possibly amplified by an individual's prowess or reputation.

12C/13C Isotope Ratio

12C/13C Isotope Ratio: Due to their different photosynthetic pathways, C3 and C4 plants have different ratios of 12C and 13C isotopes in their tissues. This ratio difference allows researchers to derive diet information from the fossilized tissue of animals, including human ancestors. Isotope ratios indicative of C3 plants suggest browsing from foliage while C4 isotope ratios suggest grazing.

Please note: this information does not differentiate between a diet of eating C3 and C4 plants, eating the meat of an animal that consumed those plants, or a combination of the two.

7q11.23 Duplication Syndrome A developmental disorder resulting from a duplication of approximately 25 genes on chromosome 7.

A reversible change in a biological characteristic contributing to maintaining homeostasis during exposure to an environmental stress.

Acheulean (Mode 2) Tools

An archaeological industry of stone tools characterized by distinctive oval and pear-shaped bi-faced “hand-axes.” Acheulean tools were produced during the Lower Palaeolithic era across Africa and much of West Asia, South Asia, and Europe, and are typically found with Homo erectus remains.


Evolution of a phenotype by selection because it improved reproduction and/or survival.


Breeding between isolated populations.


Arranging related sequences by position.


Alternative DNA sequence at the same locus (location on the chromosome)

Allele Frequency

The proportion of all alleles within a population that are a particular type.


Chromosomes that determine sex (XY, with Y-Chromosome inherited paternally).


The inability to recognize musical tones or to reproduce them (tone deafness).


A roughly almond-shaped mass of gray matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions, including fear.

Anatomically Modern Humans

Homo sapiens dating back to almost 200,000 years ago that are within range of the skeletal features of modern Homo sapiens.


Something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.

Antagonistic Pleiotropy

A phenomenon whereby multiple influences of the same gene have opposite effects on the fitness of the organism


A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension.

Archaic Admixture

DNA from ancient, divergent, and now extinct populations found in current people.

Archaic Homo sapiens

Earlier forms of Homo sapiens, anatomically distinct from modern humans.


A human-specific protein coding gene that promotes amplification of basal progenitors in the subventricular zone, producing more neurons during fetal cortical development. It has been implicated in the evolutionary expansion of the human brain neocortex.


An archaeological site in Spain with fossils and stone tools of the earliest known hominins in Western Europe.


Build-up of cholesterol and inflammation in the lining of blood vessels.

Aurignacian (Mode 4)

An archaeological industry of stone tools characterized by worked bone and antler points with grooves cut in the bottom, as well as fine stone blades and bladelets struck from prepared cores rather than using crude flakes. It is associated with the earliest modern humans in Europe and their migration from the Near East.


A mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

Autism spectrum disorder

A range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.


An account of a person’s life written by that person.


All other non-allosomal chromosomes. Do not differ between the sexes.

Basal Progenitor

A cortical neural progenitor cell which undergoes replication and division. Basal progenitor cells are a subset that lie in the subventricular zone and lack contact with the neighboring ventricle—only contacting the outer, basal, surface—and contribute to the expansion of the outer cortex.

Basal Radial Glia

A primary progenitor cell capable of generating neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes. Basal radial glia and outer radial glia are defined by their position, morphology, and genetic phenotype.


Methods in probability and statistics named after Thomas Bayes (1702-61) in which a quantity is assigned to represent a state of knowledge, or a state of belief.

Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome

An overgrowth disorder caused by an imbalance in sex-specific modification of chromosomes and characterized by higher risk of childhood cancer and certain congenital features.


The way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others.

Behaviorally Modern Humans

Current Homo sapiens, a population of hominins who evolved in Africa 200-100,000 years ago, developed a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguished them from other hominins in and outside Africa, which likely allowed them to replace all other related hominins across the planet, with some interbreeding but no surviving hybrid species.

Bonobo (Pan paniscus)

One of the two species comprising the genus, Pan, having branched from chimpanzees ~1 million years ago. Sometimes referred to as “pygmy chimpanzee.” Bonobos, compared to chimpanzees, are more gracile, have female social dominance, relatively long legs, pink lips, a dark face, a “tail-tuft” through adulthood, and parted long head hair. The species is omnivorous and inhabits primary and secondary forests, including seasonally inundated swamp forests.The bonobo is found in a 500,000 km2 (190,000 sq mi) area of the Congo Basin, only south of the Congo River, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Due to political instability, little field work in their natural habitat has been performed. Most behavioral knowledge is a result of studies of captive bonobos.

C3 Plants

C3 Plants: Plants that only use the Calvin-Benson Cycle for fixing CO2 from the air. Photosynthesis in these plants involves the reaction of CO2 with C5 RuBP (ribulose-1,5-biphosphate) to form two C3 phosphoglyceric acid molecules (3PGA) in the Calvin Cycle, making hexose carbohydrates. C3 plants originated during the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras, predating C4 plants. C3 plants thrive in moderate sunlight and temperature environments. The 12C/13C ratio of C3 plants is unique and can be determined from mass spectrometry. C3 plants have more 12C compared to C4 Plants, and have less 13C in their tissue compared to what naturally occurs in the atmosphere. e.g. Herbaceous plants, cool season grasses, tree leaves, flowers, stems, and fruits.

C4 Plants

C4 Plants: Plants that use a supplementary method of CO2 uptake to form a four-carbon sugar compound. Photosynthesis in these plants involves the reaction of CO2 with C3 phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) to form C4 oxaloacetatic acid (OAA), which is converted into malic acid. Malic acid is then broken down into CO2 (which enters the Calvin Cycle to form sugars and starch) and pyruvic acid (3-carbon molecule), which is then converted back to PEP. C4 plants are well adapted for habitats with high daytime temperatures and intense sunlight. The 12C/13C ratio of C4 plants is distinct and can be determined from masspectrometry. C4 plants have less 12C but more 13C compared to C3 Plants. The 13C in C4 tissue is still less than what naturally occurs in the atmosphere. e.g. Tropical grasses, including crabgrass, corn, sugarcane, sorghum.

Calvin-Benson Cycle

The set of chemical reactions that take place in chloroplasts of plants during photosynthesis. This light-independent process converts carbon atoms from the atmosphere into three-carbon sugars.

Canids (Canidae)

Carnivorous lineage that includes domestic dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and other extant and extinct dog-like mammals.

Carcinoma A cancer of the epithelial tissue of the lining of internal organs or the skin.

An acquired or hereditary disease of heart muscle resulting in weakening, enlargement, thickening, or rigidity of the heart.

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions of the heart that include diseased vessels, structural problems, and blood clots (sometimes used synonymously with Atherosclerosis).


An organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging.

Cetaceans (Cetacea)

A clade of aquatic mammals consisting of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

One of the two species comprising the genus, Pan, having branched from bonobos ~1 million years ago. Sometimes referred to as “common chimpanzees”. Native to sub-Saharan Africa, chimpanzees are found in and around the Congo Basin (north of the Congo River) and throughout West Africa. Chimpanzees are divided into four subspecies, based on appearance and distribution. Compared to bonobos, chimpanzees are somewhat larger, more aggressive, and exhibit male social dominance.


A bacterial disease causing severe diarrhea and dehydration, usually spread in sewage-contaminated water.


DNA wrapped around histone proteins


Discrete strands of packaged DNA.

Chronic Mountain Sickness

A disease characterized loss of adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia. Signs include severe polycythemia (increased blood volume occupied by red blood cells) and hypoxemia (lack of oxygenation).


A group of organisms consisting of a common ancestor and all lineal descendants and represent a single branch on the “tree of life.”


Making a copy of an organism or sequence.
Organisms are cloned by moving an entire genome from a cell into an egg. DNA sequences are cloned by moving copies into a bacteria using a vector.


Time since common ancestor.

Coalescent Theory

Models evolution backward in time to infer historical population size, mutation rate, allele age, and allele frequency change by selection and drift.


A sequence of three nucleotides along a DNA or RNA chain encoding a single amino acid, and start or stop.


The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.


A relationship between organisms where one derives food or other benefits from the other without hurting or helping it.

Comparative Method

A method of evolutionary analysis that uses comparisons across independently evolved species, as a means for studying historical and physical constraints.


A disease or physical abnormality present from birth.


Members of the same species.

Coronary Thrombosis

Blockage of blood flow to the heart, caused by atherosclerosis and blood clotting in a coronary artery. The most common kind of heart attack.

Cortical-Basal Ganglia Subcortical nuclei in the base of the forebrains of vertebrates, including humans, which are involved with a variety of functions including control of voluntary motor movements, procedural learning, routine behaviors or “habits” such as teeth grinding, eye movements, cognition, and emotion.
Corvids (Corvidae)

The family of stout-billed passerine birds (an order of birds characterized by an arrangement of toes with three forward and one backward to facilitate perching) including the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcrackers.

Corvus brachyrhynchos

The American crow.


The number of reads for a given locus.

CpG site

Locus where a cytosine nucleotide is followed by guanine nucleotide in the linear sequence of bases. Cytosines in CpG dinucleotides can be methylated to form 5-methyl cytosine, a common epigenetic mark.

Cranial Neural Crest Cells Cells that become the structures of the endocranium and face.

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. A method that can mutate a specified locus.

Cumulative Cooperative Culture

In human culture, the accumulation of cultural modifications over time (“ratchet effect”) resulting from social learning, active teaching, social motivations for conformity, and normative sanctions against non-conformity.

Daughter Neuron

Resulting cell(s) formed when neural stem cells or progenitor cells undergo cellular division.


Study of population size over time.


An extinct hominin population contemporary with Neandertals that hybridized with ancient humansKnowledge of Denisovan morphology is limited to two small fossils found in Siberia.

Dental Calculus

Calcified dental plaque, provides information on diet, disease, health, microbiome and protects the genetic information within the tooth from degradation.

Derived Alleles

Variants arising since last common ancestor.

Developmental adaptation

An irreversible biological characteristic acquired during growth and development in a stressful environment.

Developmental adaptation

An irreversible biological characteristic acquired during growth and development in a stressful environment.


Two sets of paired chromosomes.

Disease Phenotype

Outwardly apparent effects of a disease.


Change in genetic content or phenotype between isolated populations or species.


Deoxyribonucleic acid. The molecule of inheritance, consisting of sequences of the four nucleotide building blocks (ATGC).


The interaction of an organism with their physical environment, along with other organisms.

Effective Population Size (Ne)

The size of an idealized population (random mating, no selection, mutation or migration) with the same rate of genetic drift as the study population.

Elephants (Elephantidae)

Large herbivorous mammals recognized by their long trunks, tusks, large ear flaps, and pillar-like legs. Elephants are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia and consist of three species, the Africa bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), the African forest elephant (L. cyclotis), and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).


Short region of DNA that can be bound by proteins to alter transcription of a gene.


Information not encoded directly in DNA.


Molecular modifications of the DNA and its associated histone proteins, affecting its function.


Open chromatin, allowing information to be read.

Evolutionary Medicine

The application of modern evolutionary theory to understanding health and disease.


Sequences at a locus that encode proteins

Falciparum Malaria

Human-specific (malignant) malaria caused by the protozoan parasite, Plasmodium falciparum.

False Beliefs

The ability to recognize that others can have beliefs about the world that are diverging. An important component of Theory of Mind.

Fatty Acid

A molecule composed of a long chain of lipid-carboxylic acid, which is either saturated (single bonds between the components of the fatty acid chain) or unsaturated (at least one double bond within the fatty acid chain).

Fixed Alleles

Replaced all other alleles in a population.


Searching for wild food or provisions as opposed to cultivating food crops.

FOXP2 A gene in humans that encodes for a transcription factor protein and is involved in the production of speech.
Functional DNA

Encodes biological information.
~2% of all DNA: Codes for proteins.
~80% of all DNA: Regulates gene activity.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

A neuroimaging technique for measuring and mapping brain activity that is noninvasive and safe. The phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is used to generate a signal that can be mapped and turned into an image of brain activity.


Intentional, ritualistic disposal of the deceased. May include behaviors such as placement of grave goods (artefacts and/or natural materials such as flowers) and positioning of interred body(ies).


A number of species of prosimians that are small, nocturnal, and native to continental Africa. Also known as bushbabies. Galagos often nest in tree hollows during the day. Chimpanzees have been observed hunting with “spears” for nested galagos, and they are also hunted by Hadza hunter-gatherers.


DNA whose information encodes a function.

Gene Flow

Movement of alleles between populations.

Gene Regulation

Alterations of gene expression/activity.