Aim of this Book
Animal-Behavior Desk Reference, A Dictionary of Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution is an annotated dictionary intended to help improve scientific communication, in particular in the fields of animal behavior, ecology, evolution, and related branches of biology. I created this book for students, teachers, researchers, writers, editors, and others active in science. This second edition contains more than 1200 additional terms and definitions and thousands of additions and improvements on material presented in the first edition.
A book such as this one can never be complete. Therefore, I certainly welcome constructive criticisms and further information that should be included for its improvement, such as previously published definitions, new definitions of existing terms, your view of definitions already in this book, and new terms with their definitions. Your e-mails ([email protected]), letters, and annotated reprints regarding these subjects are especially welcome. If you have coined a term(s) included in this book, and I do not attribute this properly, please let me know.
Many references are secondary ones — e.g., Smith (1946 in Jones 1990) — because I wanted to indicate the source of an author's interpreted information, I could not examine certain primary references, or both. If I have cited your work secondarily, I would be very pleased to receive a copy of your publication (with relevant parts highlighted) to facilitate quoting your work directly in the future. Further, if I have misinterpreted your writing with regard to a definition(s) or other information, please let me know.
Clearly defined biological terminology aids the advancement of basic, theoretical, and applied biology. Phenomena are often further elucidated when they are placed in proper order with useful names (Brosius and Gould 1992, 10709). For effective, efficient communication, people should have, or at least understand, the same precise terminology. Dawkins (1986, 110-111) discusses how definitions have had an enormous impact on the way people perceive, for example, in communication. "They have affected what we regard as 'communication' and 'signals' and whether we see communication as involving any sort of transfer of information. .. .Much of the confusion over 'information transfer,' too, appears to have been largely brought about by the way it is defined. Arguments which appear to be over something profound about animal communication (such as whether information is being transferred or not) often turn out to be nothing more than whether a protagonist is adopting the technical or the more everyday meaning of the term."
To promote the understanding of terminology, some societies (e.g., the Animal Behavior Society and American Society of Parasitologists) have, or have had, committees dedicated to this subject. Useful dictionaries and encyclopedias that define biological terms (meaning biological in the broad sense) include Campbell and Lack 1985; Chapin 1968; Collocot and Dobson 1974; Cumming 1972; Drever 1974; Eysenck et al. 1979; Goldenson 1984; Harré and Lamb 1983; Heymer 1977; Hinsie and Campbell 1976; Hurnik et al. 1995; Immelmann 1977; Immelmann and Beer 1989; Keller and Lloyd 1992; King and Stansfield 1985; Lincoln et al. 1985; Medawar and Medawar 1983; Roe and Frederick 1981; Seymour-Smith 1986; Steen 1973; Storz 1973; and Wolman 1973.
Biologists in general strive to obtain a superior terminology, unfortunately not yet with total success. Confusion and controversy about meanings are common, as I indicate in many entries of this book. Many terms, not to mention the concepts that they represent, are obviously in need of further study of their already-designated meanings. The confusion and controversies arise for many reasons, including:
• A satisfactory definition of a term might not yet exist due to our present state of knowledge (e.g., see aggression, awareness, and consciousness).
• The name of a term is a nontechnical English word which already has a common dictionary definition (e.g., see altruism, selfishness, and spite). Such nontechnical words often "have a variety of meanings and are surrounded by a dense atmosphere of values and associations"
(Wilson and Dugatkin 1992, 29). Therefore, such words can confound communication even if they are precisely defined in scientific literature. Keller (1992a) describes how "competition" with its established colloquial meaning permits the simultaneous transfer and denial of its colloquial connotations when it is used technically. Colloquial connotations can lead plausibly to one set of inferences about a concept and close off others. "Eugenics" was originally defined technically and nonpolitically, yet some people now find it difficult to think of eugenics without negative political connotations.
• The name of a term is a foreign word that may be hard to remember and interpret accurately (e.g., see umwelt and zeitgeber).
• The name of a term is a technical word that may be difficult to remember and understand without an explicit definition (e.g., see apotreptic behavior and epidiectic display).
• The term is only implicitly defined with regard to all, or some, of its meanings in the scientific literature. To my dismay, I have omitted some terms and some definitions from this book because I could not formulate a satisfactory definition from information provided in written material.
• The term is explicitly, but not correctly, defined in all scientific literature, textbooks, or both. For example, consider "inclusive fitness." Grafen (1982) lists 14 commonly used animal-behavior textbooks that defined this term erroneously or inadequately. Dawkins (1986, 44) later advises, "It is best not to read too much about inclusive fitness as much of what has been written is misleading."
• The term has more than one technical definition that can vary in their degrees of difference, from one word (such as partially, possibly, or potentially) to many words (e.g., see species). In some cases, the same term can even have opposite meanings (e.g., see true altruism and overdispersed distribution).
• Many terms have evolved in their meanings as scientists learned more about the concepts that they represent, research focus shifted, or both. "Isolation" was originally used for both geographical isolation and reproductive isolation; "variety" was used, for instance, by Darwin, for a single individual or a population; and "teleological" was used for four distinct phenomena (Mayr 1982, 43) (e.g., also see communication, evolution, fitness, gene, homology, species, and territory).
• The term may have one to many synonyms, sometimes including a perplexing one that is also the same word(s) used for a very different concept (e.g., see adaptation and homology). In some cases, imprecise language led to virtual synonymies of important terms that should retain distinct usages (e.g., these terms and their associated ones: coevolution, guild, and keystone species) (Fauth et al. 1996, 282).
• The term has more than one spelling, capitalization, or hyphenation style (e.g., see homeotherm, endosymbiosis hypothesis, the Modern Synthesis, and molecular-clock hypothesis).
• The same concept is referred to using two or more of these words: hypothesis, law, rule, and theory. Examples are locale-odor hypothesis and Allen's rule.
• Authors often shorten a concept's name; for example, they use "adaptation" to mean a specific kind of adaptation, such as physiological adaptation, and "selection" to mean a specific kind of selection, such as artificial selection.
• Many scientific words are long. Especially long words are the chemical names for deoxyribonucleic acid (207,000 letters), tryptophan synthetase (1900), tobacco mosaic virus (1185), pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45, a lung disease caused by breathing fine dust), and hepaticocholangiocholecystenterostomies (39, a surgical operation that creates channels of communication between gall bladders and hepatic ducts or intestines) (Ash 1996, 108).
• Different dictionaries define the term differently (e.g., atavism) (Hrdy 1996, 851; Thornhill and Gangestad 1996, 853).
Many concerned scientists have tried to rescue us from terminological pitfalls. I applaud them. For instance, Hailman (1976) insightfully suggests how to improve behavioral terminology by emphasizing logic, informational content, and efficiency, rather than historical origins of stability. Brown (1987, 297) lists very helpful guidelines for using biological terms. Fitch (1976) even organized others to petition against a confusing definition of homology that refers to similarity of nucleotide sequences (= sequence homology) (Lewin 1987a).
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