| Abiotic means not living. Some
of the abiotic elements of an ecosystem community are the landforms,
the soil, and the weather.
|Algae are one-celled organisms that
contain chlorophyll, the green chemical in plants. We sometimes call
algae "pond scum" or "seaweed."
|The aquifer is the natural underground
rock formation that carries water to wells and springs.
|Bajada (pronounced ba-há-da)
is a Spanish word that means "slope" or "skirt".
|Biotic means living. A biotic community
includes plants and animals. Biotic communities are named for the
main plants that grow in them. An example from Sabino Canyon is the
|Bobbed means cut off or short. The
bobcat has a bobbed tail. In the familiar song "Jingle Bells,"
the line says: "Bells on bobbed tails ring." Some sleigh
horses' tails are cut short so they won't get tangled in the driving
|Animals are camouflaged when the
colors, patterns, or shapes of their bodies help them blend in with
their surroundings. Camouflage helps them hide from other animals.
|In carnivores, the carnassial teeth
are the last upper premolar combined with the first lower molar teeth.
The carnassials are used for shearing meat.
|A carnivore is an animal that eats
mainly meat. In Sabino Canyon, a bobcat would eat pack rats and quail.
|Cicadas are insects that are similar to
locusts. They make a high-pitched buzzing sound and can often be heard
singing loudly during the heat of midday.
|An animal that feeds on other animals or
plants is called a consumer. Primary consumers eat plants.
Secondary consumers eat animals that eat plants.
|Deciduous plants lose
their leaves for part of the year. Some deciduous trees lose their
leaves whenever the soil gets very dry. Some desert trees, like paloverdes,
are like that. Along Sabino Creek, the fall-deciduous trees (the ones
that lose their leaves in the fall season) are the Arizona sycamore,
the Arizona walnut, the Fremont cottonwood, Goodding willow, and the
|A decomposer like bacteria or fungi
turns dead matter into food (nutrients) for producers (plants).
|A desert is a place that is so dry
it severely limits the amount of vegetation (plants) that can grow
there. Some deserts, like the Sonoran Desert, are hot, but others,
like in Antarctica, are very cold.
|There is a balance or equilibrium
in nature . However, that balance is always changing. That means it's
|Ecology is the study of the interrelationships
between plants, animals, and their habitats.
|An ecosystem is made of up all the
living (biotic) things of a community and how they interact with the
non-living (abiotic) things.
|Endangered species are
animals or plants that are likely to become extinct (disappear from
our planet) unless we protect them.
|The leaves of a plant are its
|A food chain
is a simple way of thinking about energy moves through a community
of living things. The sun's energy is transferred from plants (producers)
through animals (consumers) and finally returned to the soil by decomposers
that feed on the dead and waste products. An example from Sabino Canyon
is: grass, cottontail rabbit, coyote, dead coyote eaten by maggots
|A food web is
more complex than a food chain. A food web is made up of many food
chains, linked together and branching. It's more like real life, because
it shows how energy can take many different paths. The cottontail
rabbit in the food chain example (above) is not only prey to the coyote;
bobcats, rattlesnakes, and other animals eat cottontails, too.
|A habitat is the area
in which a plant or an animal lives. A habitat must have enough food,
water, and shelter to meet an animal's needs. It must have the right
amount of light, water, and type of soil to meet the plant's needs.
|An herbivore is an animal
that eats mostly plants. In Sabino Canyon, a white-tailed deer would
eat the leaves and branches of mesquite trees.
|Larvae are one stage of growth for
insects and some other animals. Insects that reproduce through complete
metamorphosis have these four stages: egg, larva or nymph, pupa, and
adult. A caterpillar is a butterfly larva.
|A mammal is an animal with a backbone
that feeds its young with milk from the mother's body. Mammals are
endothermic which means they make most of their body heat themselves
by burning their food. They have hair and fat to help retain heat.
|Muck is made up of dead
leaves, dead animals, and other decaying material that collects on
the bottom of a creek or stream. Muck is the breeding and feeding
place for many insects. In Sabino Creek, mayfly nymphs and mosquito
larvae known as "wrigglers" feed on muck. "Muck"
isn't really a scientific word, but it's fun!
|An omnivore is an animal that eats
both plants and animals. In Sabino Canyon, a coyote would eat both
prickly pear fruits and round-tail ground squirrels.
|A parasite is a plant
or animal that lives off another plant or animal and gets food from
it. Desert mistletoe is an example of a hemi-parasite (a partial parasite)
because even though it makes its own food, it puts its root-like parts
into the branch of a tree and takes its water from that tree and not
from the soil.
|In the chemical process known
as photosynthesis, plants use green chlorophyll to convert
the sun's energy into stored energy in food. In the process, plants
give off oxygen. Because plants produce their own food directly from
the sun, they are called producers.
|A predator is an animal that feeds
upon an other animal.
|A prey animal is one that is hunted
and eaten by another animal.
|Plants are producers because they
can make their own food. This is done through a process called photosynthesis.
|A ravine is a natural rainwater
run off channel. A ravine is larger than a wash.
|The word "ripa" means shore or
bank in Latin. The riparian woodland is found along Sabino
Creek. It has the greatest variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, and
insects. It is where the fall-deciduous trees grow.
|A species is a group of living things
that breed with each other in nature and produce offspring that can
also breed. Coyotes can breed together, and the pups can breed when
they grow up, so all coyotes are one species. Bobcats can't breed
with coyotes, so they're a different species. In nature, living things
in the same species usually look pretty much alike.
|If a species is "threatened,"
there is a chance it will become endangered. If a species is "endangered",
it's in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened and endangered species
need people to take action to prevent them from becoming extinct.
|A wash is a natural rainwater run
off channel. A wash is smaller than a ravine.
|A watershed is the land that drains
into a creek, river, or body of water. The Santa Catalina Mountains
drain rainwater and snow melt into Sabino Creek.
|Web of Life
|The Web of Life is like a spider's
web. It is made up of the interactions between plants and animals
and their environment.