We understand that some words in our field can be long and confusing at times, even for us. Therefore, we’ve assembled this helpful alphabetised list of definitions to make reading our articles a little easier.

Anoxia: without oxygen

Biodiversity: the variety of biological organisms in a particular environment

Clade: a group of all of the evolutionary descendants of a common ancestor

Contemporary: (1) modern (2) living at the same time in the same place

Extant: alive in the modern world/still existing today

Genus: a taxonomic rank above species (plural: genera)

Infraorder: a collection of animals within an order, larger than a suborder

Invertebrate: animals without a spine

Lithology: the physical characteristics of rocks

Morphology: how an animal looks

Niche: a specific role taken by an organism in a community

Order: a taxonomic rank above family and below class

Palaeocontinent: continents/continental arrangements that existed in the geological past

Palaeoenvironment: the environment that used to be present in an area

Phylogeny: the study of the evolutionary development of organisms or their features

Phylum: a taxonomic rank below kingdom and above class (plural: phyla)

Subfamily: a collection of animals within a family, smaller than a family

Suborder: a collection of animals within an order, smaller than an infraorder

Species: the principal taxonomic unit for naming organisms

Taxon: any rank of taxonomic group (plural: taxa)

Taxonomy: a system of classification of organisms

Thermoregulation: a process that enables the regulation of internal body temperature

Uniformitarianism: the theory that changes of Earth’s crust during geological history have been caused by continuous and uniform processes

Vertebrate: animals with a spine