CARTA Glossary

Displaying 301 - 400 of 885 defined words
Word Definition Related Vocabulary
Footfall sequence

The distribution of footsteps, relative to one another; some gaits may be defined by footfall sequence.


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

Fore limb

The front limbs and feet of a quadrupedal animal (also, the upper limbs/arms of a human).

Foregut fermentation

A digestive process in which plant materials are fermented in a specialized combination of stomach compartments together called the reticulorumen. In ruminants, the fermented cud of the reticulorumen is regurgitated and chewed again to further break down the plant material, a process called rumination. After rumination, the food is finally digested in other stomach compartments, the omasum and abomsum (true stomach). Foregut fermentation also exists in some species that do not ruminate, such as leaf monkeys.


A protein that is rapidly synthesized in neurons when they become active and therefore is used as a marker of neuron activity and is involved in regulating gene expression.

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

A measure of abnormal mothering in rodents. Fragmentation score reflects disruptions in the temporal pattern of care typically displayed by rodents. High fragmentation scores indicate shorter nursing bouts and generally erratic behavior.

Freehand piercing

The act of piercing without the use of forceps.

Frontal lobe (brain)

The largest of the four major lobes of the brain in mammals, and is located at the front of each hemisphere. It is devoted to action such as skeletal movement, ocular movement, speech control, the expression of emotions. In humans, the largest part of the frontal cortex is the prefrontal cortex.

Frontoparietal Networks

Human frontal and parietal lobes form a network that is crucially involved in the selection of sensory contents by attention.

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).

GABA receptors

A class of membrane proteins that act as receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA and are mostly found on inhibitory neurons.


How a person or animal moves; different categories of movement are different gaits (e.g. a run vs. a walk, a trot vs. a gallop).


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.


Mature haploid sex cells that can unite to form a diploid zygote.


A genus of Gram-variable-staining facultative anaerobic bacteria of which Gardnerella vaginalis is the only species.

Gardnerella vaginalis

A facultatively anaerobic Gram-variable rod that is involved, together with many other bacteria, in bacterial vaginosis in some women as a result of a disruption in the normal vaginal microflora.


Inflammation of the stomach and small intestine typically caused by a virus, but can also be caused by bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

GATA binding protein 3 (GATA3)

A gene that encodes a protein in the GATA family of transcription factors. GATA3 plays an important role in endothelial cell biology and in allergy and immunity against worm infections. In humans, defects in GATA3 cause hypoparathyroidism with sensorineural deafness and renal dysplasia.


1. A standard of dimensions or measurement – in body jewelry, the thickness. 2. Slang for the act of “stretching” a piercing.


Slang term for body jewelry, especially plugs or tunnels worn in stretched ear piercings


A slang term for stretching a piercing

Gene conversion

A type of concerted evolution where one gene on a chromosome can “paste” its sequence over a neighboring gene of high sequence similarity such that the sequences become identical after the conversion event. This phenomenon is common between similar genes located on the same chromosome region.

Gene expression

The process by which the information contained within a gene (nucleotide sequence) is used to direct protein synthesis and dictate cell function. Nearly all of the cells in the body contain identical genes, but only a subset of this information is used or expressed at any time. The genes expressed in a cell determine what that cell can do.

Gene pool

The total of all genes and their variants (alleles) of a population of a species.

Gene-Culture Co-Evolution Theory

A branch of theoretical population genetics that models the transmission of genes and cultural traits from one generation to the next, exploring how they interact. Also known as “biocultural evolution” or “biological enculturation” (feedback between culture and biology).

General anesthesia

A combination of medications that put you in a sleep-like state before medical procedures.

Genetic Adaptation

A biological characteristic with a heritable basis that improves reproduction and/or survival and results from evolution by natural selection.

Genetic diversity

The total of heritable traits within a species.

Genetic Drift

Change in allele frequencies, including fixation and loss, by chance.

Genetic load

The presence of deleterious gene variants (including recessive variants) in a population.

Genetic variant

A version of a DNA sequence that differs from others found at the same locus. For example, the difference can consist in a single base pair (as in single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNP) or in the deletion/insertion of a DNA base(s). See: indel.

Genital modification

The deliberate, permanent alteration of the male (penis, testicles) or female (vulva) genitals.

Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS)

An approach for “gene mapping” in which hundreds of thousands of SNPs are tested statistically for genetic associations with a phenotype.


Characterizing genetic variants at one or more loci.


A taxonomic rank used in biological classification of living and fossil organisms to group closely related species. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name plus species name forms the binomial species name (e.g. Homo sapiens).

Germinal Zone A region where cell division and proliferation occurs during vertebrate central nervous system development consisting of 2 layers lining the ventricles (ventricular zone and subventricular zone).
Glia (neuroglia)

Non-neuronal cells in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system that do not produce electrical impulses. Their function is to ensure homeostasis, form myelin sheaths, and provide support and protection for neurons. Glia make up ~50% of our brain cells.

Global Neuronal Workspace (GNW)

A hypothesis that offers a simple connectomic scheme based upon the contribution of neurons with long-range axons to conscious processing. Their reciprocal interactions contribute to the formation of a global workspace, broadcasting signals from the sensory periphery to the whole brain, thus yielding “conscious” experience. The GNW hypothesis privileges cortical pyramidal cells with long-range excitatory axons, particularly dense in prefrontal, temporoparietal, and cingulate regions, that, together with the relevant thalamocortical loops, reciprocally interconnect multiple specialized, automatic, and non-conscious processors. Another important feature of this hypothesis is that the GNW activates in a non-linear manner, called ‘‘ignition,’’ upon access to conscious processing. Ignition is characterized by the sudden, coherent, and exclusive activation of a subset of workspace neurons coding for the current conscious content, with the remainder of the workspace neurons being inhibited.

Global nitrogen cycle

The biogeochemical cycle by which nitrogen is converted by fixation (gaseous nitrogen is converted into ammonia, which can be taken up by plants), ammonification (organic nitrogen from decaying animal and plant matter is converted into ammonium by bacteria and fungi), nitrification (ammonium is converted into nitrate by soil bacteria), and denitrification (nitrate is reduced into gaseous nitrogen). This cycle is central to the biogeochemistry of the Earth. Oceans also have an enormous nitrogen cycle.


A class of corticosteroids that are involved in stress response and are also a part of the feedback mechanism in the immune system. E.g., Dexamethasone (a synthetic glucorticoid).


One of the four classes of major biomolecules. Glycans consist of varying numbers of sugars (monosaccharides) attached to proteins or lipids or secreted as free glycans. Glycans are essential biomolecules whose functions can be divided into three broad categories: structural and modulatory properties (including nutrient storage and sequestration), specific recognition by other molecules, and molecular mimicry of host glycans.


A type of a lipid (fat) with an attached glycan that functions to maintain the stability of the cell membrane and to facilitate cellular recognition. Glycolipids are crucial in immune response and tissue formation.


A class of proteins with covalently attached glycans. Glycoproteins play a part in important cellular functions like embryonic development, cell-to-cell recognition, cell adhesion, and immune functions.


Proteins with enzymatic functions that are involved in adding monosaccharides to other molecules.

Gram-Negative and Gram-Positive Staining

A characterization of bacteria based on how they differentially react with a chemical stain (crystal violet) based on their cell wall constituents.

Grandmother hypothesis

An explanation of the post- menopausal life stage of human females whereby the existence of grandmothers serves as a biological and social adaptive advantage for humans. Post-reproductive life stages are non-existent among non-human primates, so it is hypothesized that humans evolved to have grandmothers and grandmothering to have individuals who are free to invest their energy into the offspring of their children. This off-loads the reproductive cost of parenting through social kin-networking, and off-set the resource cost of brain- building as parents are freed to provision resources. Increased resource procurement may reduce the inter-birth interval by allowing for earlier weening, which in turn increases offspring production potential, passes down generational knowledge, and increase social networks. In doing so, the grandmother ensures the survival of her genes in subsequent generations. The extended post-reproduction life stage of grandmothers likely had the added output of producing grandfathers, who also provide benefits to the extended family, as well as their own extended reproductive time line that competes with subsequent generations.

Gray Matter (Brain)

A major component of the central nervous system that includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. Gray matter development peaks the third decade in humans.

Green Revolution

The development and dissemination of crop variants and technology between the 1950s and 1960s that increased agricultural production around the world. Also known as the third agricultural revolution.

Greenhouse effect

The entrapment of heat close to Earth’s surface by greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The release of polluting gasses resulting from human activity, such as burning fossil fuels that contribute to greenhouse effect.

Grey ceiling effect

The proposed boundary of maximum brain size in hominins that can be supported by an ape-like lifestyle that was crossed by genus Homo through the adoption of cooperative breeding. Described by Isler and van Schaik (2011).

Guillain–Barré Syndrome (GBS)

A rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by an autoimmune response in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the peripheral nervous system. Initial symptoms typically begin in the feet and hands with changes in sensation, pain, and muscle weakness, which then spreads to the arms and upper body of both sides. Sometimes this immune dysfunction is triggered by an infection or, less commonly by surgery, and rarely by vaccination.


The process of forming the characteristic folds of the cerebral cortex.  The peak of such a fold is called a gyrus (plural: gyri), and its trough is called a sulcus (plural: sulci).

Gyrus (Brain)

A ridge on the cerebral cortex that, along with surrounding sulci (furrows) creates the folded appearance of the brain in humans and other mammals.

Hadza (Hadzabe)

An indigenous ethnic group of traditionally nomadic hunter-gatherers from the central Rift Valley and Serengeti Plateau of Tanzania. Tourism, encroachment by pastoralists, and land rights disputes critically threaten their way of life.


A prehistoric stone tool with two faces and is usually made from flint, basalt, sandstone, quartzite, or chert.


A set of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor.

HapMap collection

A map of informative subsets of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) found along a stretch of a chromosome used to identify blocks of genetic variation existing along human chromosomes.


Sensory perception and manipulation of objects through touch and proprioception.

Hematopoietic stem cells

Stem cells that can become different types of blood cells.


One of two paired chromosomes is affected by a deletion. The other chromosome is intact. 


A protein complex within red blood cells (RBCs) that binds to oxygen molecules in the lungs for delivery to tissues throughout the body. The same complex also binds carbon dioxide (CO2) and carries it back to the lungs.

Hemoglobin S

The abnormal hemoglobin protein in red blood cells (RBCs) that causes RBCs to assume a sickle, or crescent shape.

Hemoglobin Subunit Beta Gene (HBB)

A gene that provides instructions for making beta-globin, a protein component of hemoglobin. Sickle Cell Anemia is a disorder caused by a mutation in the HBB gene.

Herd Immunity

Sometimes also called “herd protection” or “indirect immunity,” this is when most of a population is immune to a specific contagious disease, which slows its spread to others that are not immune. However, because the level needed to reach this kind of immunity is so high (about 80-90% of the population), it invariably means that a lot of individuals must be infected (and often can die) before herd immunity can be achieved.


A statistic used in the fields of breeding and genetics that estimates the degree of variation in a phenotypic trait in a population that is due to genetic variation between individuals in that population.


Tightly wrapped and inactive chromatin.


Have two different alleles at a locus.


Any problem solving strategy that involves the usage of generalizations as mental shortcuts to quickly come to adequate solutions for complex problems.

Hind limb

The back limbs and feet of a quadrupedal animal (also, the lower limbs/legs of a human).

Hindgut fermentation

A digestive process in which cellulose and other polysaccharides are broken down by symbiotic bacteria residing the colon of some mammalian species.

Hippocampus (Brain)

A part of the limbic system that plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory, and in spatial memory that enables navigation. Humans and other vertebrates have two hippocampi, one in each side of the brain. It is named after its resemblance to the shape of a sea horse (hippocampus in Latin).

Histo-blood groups

Meaning “tissue-related”, these blood group antigens originally evolved on epithelial cells prior to expression on erythrocytes (red blood cells). ABO is a classic example of a histo-blood group.

Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor (HDACi)

A drug that inhibits histone deacetylases or molecules involved in modifying histone proteins. Histone deacetylases typically function to reduce chromatin accessibility and gene expression. Therefore, administration of this drug allows for higher levels of gene expression.

Histone Modification

A covalent post-translational modification (PTM) to histone proteins which includes methylation, phosphorylation, acetylation, ubiquitylation, and sumoylation. The PTMs made to histones can impact gene expression by altering chromatin structure or recruiting histone modifiers. 


The current geological epoch, from about 11.7 kya (after the end of the last Ice Age cycle) to the present that is marked by globally warmer and more stable climates.

Homo habilis

An extinct archaic species of the genus Homo dating to ~2.1 to 1.5 mya. H. habilis means “handy man” and was named so because of its association with stone tools.  H. habilis has intermediate morphology between Australopithecus and Homo erectus. There is ongoing debate if H. habilis should be moved to the Australopithecus genus.  Initial discovery was made by Mary and Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania between 1962 and 1964.

Homo naledi

An extinct hominin species whose fossil evidence dates to 335-236 kya. An assemblage of 15 H. naledi skeletons were first found in the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system in 2013 (since then, a second chamber has been found with H. naledi skeletons). The fossils possess a mix of “archaic” traits similar to genus Australopithecus (e.g. cranial and pelvic morphology) and “modern” traits characteristic of genus Homo (e.g. hand morphology). H. naledi lived contemporaneously with anatomically modern humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans but is not likely a direct ancestors of humans living today.

Homo sapiens

The hominin species comprising all living humans. Meaning “wise man” in Latin, the name was introduced by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The earliest fossil evidence of Homo sapiens appears in Africa around 300 kya (see Jebel Irhoud Hominins).


Similarity in DNA or phenotype because of shared evolutionary history from a common ancestor.


Similarity in DNA sequence or phenotype that has evolved independently.


Have two identical alleles at a locus


A signaling molecule in multicellular organisms that contributes to the regulation of physiology and behavior.


A living organism on or in which a parasite, pathogen, commensal or symbiont lives (see Parasitism).

Howiesons Poort

A lithic technology cultural period in the Middle Stone Age in Africa named after the Howieson’s Poort Shelter archeological site near Grahamstown, South Africa. Dates range from ~65.8 kya to 59.5 kya. Examples include composite weapons hafted with ochre and gum compound glue and microlith blades, bone arrows, and needles.

Human Accelerated Regions (HARs)

A set of 49 segments of the human genome that are conserved throughout vertebrate evolution but are strikingly different in humans. They are named according to their degree of difference between humans and chimpanzees. Some of these highly mutated areas may contribute to human-specific traits while others may represent “loss of function” mutations, possibly due to the action of biased gene conversion rather than adaptive evolution.

Human Arcuate Fasciculus

The specialized connections composed of axons linking Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area in the human brain and is a major anatomic feature supporting language function in humans.

Human-specific gene

A protein-coding gene that is present in humans but absent in other non-human ape species.

Hunting and gathering

A subsistence strategy in which most or all food is obtained by foraging and is in contrast to agriculture, which rely mainly on domesticated species.

Hunting hypothesis

An explanation for the dietary shift to meat procurement during human evolution as a catalyst favoring a suite of transformative biological and behavioral adaptations.


An enzyme involved in the first step of aerobic oxidation of organic compounds.


Increased sensitivity to pain.


Pain, hypohedonia, dysphoria, anxiety, hyperalgesia, irritability, and sleep disturbances associated with drug abstinence following excessive drug taking.


Having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction.

Hypocretin (Orexin)

A neuropeptide that regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite.


A diminished capacity for pleasure.

I-type lectins

A class of lectins belonging to the immunoglobulin superfamily. e.g., Siglecs


A type of lithic industry featuring a backed bladelet specific to the coasts of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia dating between 25,000 and 11,000 years ago.