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Glossary of biological terms: S

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saprophyte = saprotroph

saprotroph. An organism that obtains its food in liquid form from dead decaying organisms (e.g. many Fungi).

sepal (botany). The parts into which the calyx is divided are termed sepals. See perianth for illustration.


symbiosis. Has two meanings which are variously used in publications: (1) a close physical association between two organisms, usually of different species. This could entail parasitism or a mutualism; and (2) a mutually beneficial relationship between two organisms that have a close physical association (i.e. mutualism). See Wilkinson, D.M. 2001. At cross purposes - how do we cope with scientific terms that have two different definitions?. Nature 412: 485.

synapomorphy (cladistics). A character shared by a group of organisms that evidence suggests originated in their closest common ancestor. Thus such a character helps in uniquely defining the group and has a single point of origin (i.e. is homologous). For instance, feathers in birds is a synapomorphy that defines birds but scales in reptiles do not define reptiles because these scales are homologous with the scales found in bony fish. 


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