Biology Important Definitions

alpha (α) helix A prevalent type of secondary protein structure; a right-handed spiral.

amino acid Organic compounds containing both NH2 and COOH groups. Proteins are polymers of amino acids.

base (1) A substance that can accept a hydrogen ion in solution. (2) In nucleic acids, the purine or pyrimidine that is attached to each sugar in the backbone.

beta (β) pleated sheet Type of protein secondary structure; results from hydrogen bonding between polypeptide regions running anti-parallel to each other.

carbohydrates Organic compounds containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in the ratio 1:2:1 (i.e., with the general formula CnH2nOn). Common examples are sugars, starch, and cellulose.

cellulose (sell´ you lowss) A straight-chain polymer of glucose molecules, used by plants as a structural supporting material.

chemical evolution The theory that life originated through the chemical transformation of inanimate substances.

complementary base pairing The AT (or AU), TA (or UA), CG, and GC pairing of bases in double-stranded DNA, in transcription, and between tRNA and mRNA.

condensation reaction A reaction in which two molecules become connected by a covalent bond and a molecule of water is released. (AH + BOH → AB + H2O.)

denaturation Loss of activity of an enzyme or nucleic acid molecule as a result of structural changes induced by heat or other means.

deoxyribose A five-carbon sugar found in nucleotides and DNA.

disaccharide A carbohydrate made up of two monosaccharides (simple sugars).

disulfide bridge The covalent bond between twosulfur atoms (–S—S–) linking to molecules or remote parts of the same molecule.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) The fundamental hereditary material of all living organisms. In eukaryotes, stored primarily in the cell nucleus. A nucleic acid using deoxyribose rather than ribose.

double helix In DNA, the natural, right-handed coil configuration of two complementary, antiparallel strands.

ester linkage A condensation (water-releasing) reaction in which the carboxyl group of a fatty acid reacts with the hydroxyl group of an alcohol. Lipids are formed in this way.

fat A triglyceride that is solid at room temperature.

fatty acid A molecule with a long hydrocarbon tail and a carboxyl group at the other end. Found in many lipids.

functional group A characteristic combination of atoms that contribute specific properties when attached to larger molecules.

glucose The most common monosaccharide; the monomer of the polysaccharides starch, glycogen, and cellulose.

glycerol A three-carbon alcohol with three hydroxyl groups; a component of phospholipids and triglycerides.

glycogen An energy storage polysaccharide found in animals and fungi; a branched-chain polymer of glucose, similar to starch.

glycosidic linkage Bond between carbohydrate (sugar) molecules through an intervening oxygen atom (–O–).

hexose [Gk. hex: six] A sugar containing six carbon atoms.

hydrolysis A chemical reaction that breaks a bond by inserting the components of water: AB + H2O → AH + BOH.

isomers Molecules consisting of the same numbers and kinds of atoms, but differing in the bonding patterns by which the atoms are held together.

ligand Any molecule that binds to a receptor site of another (usually larger) molecule.

lipids Substances in a cell which are easily extracted by organic solvents; fats, oils, waxes, steroids, and other large organic molecules, including those which, with proteins, make up the cell membranes.

macromolecule A giant polymeric molecule. The macromolecules are proteins, polysaccharides, and nucleic acids.

monomer A small molecule, two or more of which can be combined to form oligomers (consisting of a few monomers) or polymers (consisting of many monomers).

monosaccharide A simple sugar. Oligosaccharides and polysaccharides are made up of monosaccharides.

nucleic acid A long-chain alternating polymer of deoxyribose or ribose and phosphate groups, with nitrogenous bases—adenine, thymine, uracil, guanine, or cytosine (A, T, U, G, or C)—as side chains. DNA and RNA are nucleic acids.

nucleotide The basic chemical unit in a nucleic acid. A nucleotide in RNA consists of one of four nitrogenous bases linked to ribose, which in turn is linked to phosphate. In DNA, deoxyribose is present instead of ribose.

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Key Biology Terms

adaptation In evolutionary biology, a particular structure, physiological process, or behavior that makes an organism better able to survive and reproduce. Also, the evolutionary process that leads to the development or persistence of such a trait.

archaeans Unicellular organisms lacking a nucleus and lacking peptidoglycan in the cell wall. Once grouped with the bacteria, archaeans possess distinctive membrane lipids.

bacteria Unicellular organisms lacking a nucleus, possessing distinctive ribosomes and initiator tRNA, and generally containing peptidoglycan in the cell wall. Different bacterial groups are distinguished primarily on nucleotide sequence data.

comparative method An experimental design in which two samples or populations exposed to different conditions or treatments are compared to each other.

controlled experiment An experimental design in which a sample or population is divided into two groups; one group is exposed to a manipulated variable while the other group serves as a nontreated control. The two groups are compared to see if there are changes in a “dependent” variable as a result of the experimental manipulation.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) The fundamental hereditary material of all living organisms. In eukaryotes, stored primarily in the cell nucleus. A nucleic acid using deoxyribose rather than ribose.

eukaryotes Organisms made up of one or more complex cells in which the genetic material is contained in nuclei.

evolution Any gradual change. Organic or Darwinian evolution, often referred to as evolution, is any genetic and resulting phenotypic change in organisms from generation to generation.

experiment A testing process to support or disprove hypotheses and to answer questions. The basis of the scientific method.

genome All the genes in a complete haploid set of chromosomes.

hypothesis A tentative answer to a question, from which testable predictions can be generated.

metabolism The sum total of the chemical reactions that occur in an organism, or some subset of that total (as in respiratory metabolism).

natural selection The differential contribution of offspring to the next generation by various genetic types belonging to the same population. The mechanism of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin.

nucleotide The basic chemical unit in a nucleic acid. A nucleotide in RNA consists of one of four nitrogenous bases linked to ribose, which in turn is linked to phosphate. In DNA, deoxyribose is present instead of ribose.

null hypothesis The assertion that an effect proposed by its companion hypothesis does not in fact exist.

organelles Organized structures found in or on eukaryotic cells. Examples include ribosomes, nuclei, mitochrondria, chloroplasts, cilia, and contractile vacuoles.

photosynthesis Metabolic processes, carried out by green plants, by which visible light is trapped and the energy used to synthesize compounds such as ATP and glucose.

Prokaryotes Organisms whose genetic material is not contained within a nucleus: the bacteria and archaea. Considered an earlier stage in the evolution of life than the eukaryotes.

protein One of the most fundamental building substances of living organisms. A long-chain polymer of amino acids with twenty different common side chains. Occurs with its polymer chain extended in fibrous proteins, or coiled into a compact macromolecule in enzymes and other globular proteins.

scientific method A means of gaining knowledge about the natural world by making observations, posing hypotheses, and conducting experiments to test those hypotheses.

species The basic lower unit of classification, consisting of an ancestor–descendant lineage of populations of closely related and similar organisms. The more narrowly defined “biological species” consists of individuals capable of interbreeding freely with each other but not with members of other species.

Environmental PCA Scholarship

Zoology is the study of animal biology.  It’s a much needed field that employs many of people across the states, and the fact is, the entire field wouldn’t exist if there were no animals left to study.  We believe that environmental conservation is important, and from time to time, we like to recognize local businesses and non-profits that are stepping it up in terms of doing their part of preserve our environment, which we share with animals.  Today, we’d like to recognize www.pestcontrolalb.com.  Their business has been around for a number of years and has generously donated thousands and thousands of dollars toward environmental conservation, specifically in Albany County.  In addition, they have sponsored the Environmental Conservation PCA Scholarship, in the amount of $15,000 over the course of 4 years of school for one student in the area, each year, studying zoology and/or environmental conservation.  Our hope is that other local businesses follow suit and invest in protecting the local area and pushing for increase student entry into these important educational fields while there is still some green land and animals left to protect.  Whether it’s a scholarship for students pursuing wildlife biology and zoology, or money toward preserving land as “forever wild,” we’re asking for community help to raise awareness.  In July, we’ll be hosting the ECA (Environmental Conservation of Albany) 8 mile walk to raise awareness and hopefully gain some traction in the local media.  Our PR group will be focused on attracting local sponsors to gift t-shirts for all people in attendance.  The walk will start at 10 AM in front of the Capital building and progress down the steps and all through Albany, finishing at SUNY’s uptown campus.  The date is TBD, but will be announced in the coming weeks.  Please also look for a future post will more details on the event.

Check out our newest page on Zoology

What is Zoology?  It’s the division of biology that’s all about animals.  It includes everything from structure to psychology to evolution to habit and animal interaction with the environment.  Check out our latest page!  More information coming soon.

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