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All terms in this list:

mutation: a random change in an organisms' DNA, which results in that organism having a different trait or characteristic

trait: a characteristic that an organism has (examples: brown fur, blue eyes, long neck, etc.)

law of superposition: the law which states that the further down you dig, the older the rocks (and fossils) are.

natural selection: the slow process by which organisms adapt to new environmental pressures, sometimes referred to as "survival of the fittest."

evolution: Developed by Charles Darwin, this theory states that organisms change very slowly over time to become more advanced new species. This process is driven by natural selection.

ancestor: An organism from which another has descended

descendent: an organism that has descended from an ancestor

common ancestor: When two organisms evolved from the same organism we call that organism their ___________ ___________.

vertebrate: An organism that has a backbone

invertebrate: An animal that has no backbone

Cambrian Explosion: A period of time during the Paleozoic Era when many marine invertebrates evolved and appeared in the fossil record for the first time

geologic time scale: How scientists measure Earth's long history

Paleozoic Era: "Ancient life." This was the first era after Precambrian time, when many group of animals were evolving, including invertebrates, and the first vertebrates

Mesozoic Era: "Middle life," The Age of Reptiles, when dinosaurs evolved and became extinct at the end

Cenozoic Era: "Recent Life," The Age of Mammals, characterized by several dramatic changes in climate and periodic ice ages

Jurassic: The second period of the Mesozoic

Triassic: The first period of the Mesozoic, dinosaurs and mammals appear in the fossil record for the first time

Cretaceous: The third and final period of the Mesozoic Era which ended in a mass extinction

Permian extinction: The largest mass extinction of Earth's history, took place at the end of the Paleozoic, over 95% of marine life became extinct

Periods: Eras are broken down into smaller chunks called ___________.

epochs: Periods are broken down into smaller chunks of time called ____________.

mass extinction: When a large number of species become extinct within a relatively short period of time.

environmental pressure: Any factor that makes it more difficult for organisms to survive (limited food, water, space, predators, etc.)

adaptation: A characteristic that helps an organism survive the process of natural selection

Pangaea: giant supercontinent that broke apart during the Mesozoic Era.

amphibian: an animal that lives part of its life on land and part under water

reptile: a vertebrate with scaly skin, that lays eggs, some have a shell

mammal: a warm-blooded vertebrate that feeds its young milk (examples: mice, humans, tigers, bears, horses, elephants, sloths, etc.)

Tertiary Period: The first period in the Cenozoic Era

Quaternary: The second period of the Cenozoic Era, the one we are living in now

radioactive dating: a method scientists use to figure out a rock or fossils absolute age

relative age: The age of a rock or fossil compared to other rocks or fossils

absolute age: the exact number of years since a rock or fossil formed

index fossil: fossils of widely distributed organisms who lived during a known amount of time

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