This article is about the animal class.
For other uses, see Mammal (disambiguation).
"Mammalian" redirects here.
For the 2010 documentary film, see Mammalian (film).
"Mammalia" redirects here.
For the journal, see Mammalia (journal).
|Scientific classification Mammalia|
Mammals (from Latin "breast") are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia (/məˈmeɪliə/), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex (a region of the brain), fur or hair, and three middle ear bones.
In terms of cladistics, which reflects evolutionary history, mammals are the only living members of the Synapsida; this clade, together with Sauropsida (reptiles and birds), constitutes the larger Amniota clade.
At the end of the Carboniferous period around 300 million years ago, this group diverged from the sauropsid line that led to today's reptiles and birds.
The line following the stem group Sphenacodontia split into several diverse groups of non-mammalian synapsids—sometimes incorrectly referred to as mammal-like reptiles—before giving rise to Therapsida in the Early Permian period.
The modern mammalian orders arose in the Paleogene and Neogene periods of the Cenozoic era, after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, and have been the dominant terrestrial animal group from 66 million years ago to the present.
The basic body type is quadruped, and most mammals use their four extremities for terrestrial locomotion; but in some, the extremities are adapted for life at sea, in the air, in trees, underground, or on two legs.
This led to a major restructuring of human societies from nomadic to sedentary, with more co-operation among larger and larger groups, and ultimately the development of the first civilizations.
Main article: Mammal classification
Mammal classification has been through several iterations since Carl Linnaeus initially defined the class.
No classification system is universally accepted; McKenna & Bell (1997) and Wilson & Reader (2005) provide useful recent compendiums.
George Gaylord Simpson's "Principles of Classification and a Classification of Mammals" (AMNH Bulletin v. 85, 1945) provides systematics of mammal origins and relationships that were universally taught until the end of the 20th century.
Since Simpson's classification, the paleontological record has been recalibrated, and the intervening years have seen much debate and progress concerning the theoretical underpinnings of systematization itself, partly through the new concept of cladistics.
Though field work gradually made Simpson's classification outdated, it remains the closest thing to an official classification of mammals.
Most mammals, including the six most species-rich orders, belong to the placental group.
The next three biggest orders, depending on the biological classification scheme used, are the Primates including the apes, monkeys and lemurs; the Cetartiodactyla including whales and even-toed ungulates; and the Carnivora which includes cats, dogs, weasels, bears, seals and allies.
According to Mammal Species of the World, 5,416 species were identified in 2006.
According to research published in the Journal of Mammalogy in 2018, the number of recognized mammal species is 6,495 including 96 recently extinct.
The word "" is modern, from the scientific name Mammalia coined by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, derived from the Latin ("teat, pap").
In an influential 1988 paper, Timothy Rowe defined Mammalia phylogenetically as the crown group of mammals, the clade consisting of the most recent common ancestor of living monotremes (echidnas and platypuses) and Therian mammals (marsupials and placentals) and all descendants of that ancestor.
Since this ancestor lived in the Jurassic period, Rowe's definition excludes all animals from the earlier Triassic, despite the fact that Triassic fossils in the Haramiyida have been referred to the Mammalia since the mid-19th century.
If Mammalia is considered as the crown group, its origin can be roughly dated as the first known appearance of animals more closely related to some extant mammals than to others.
Ambondro is more closely related to monotremes than to therian mammals while Amphilestes and Amphitherium are more closely related to the therians; as fossils of all three genera are dated about million years ago in the Middle Jurassic, this is a reasonable estimate for the appearance of the crown group.
T. S. Kemp has provided a more traditional definition: "Synapsids that possess a dentary–squamosal jaw articulation and occlusion between upper and lower molars with a transverse component to the movement" or, equivalently in Kemp's view, the clade originating with the last common ancestor of Sinoconodon and living mammals.
In 1997, the mammals were comprehensively revised by Malcolm C. McKenna and Susan K. Bell, which has resulted in the McKenna/Bell classification.
Their 1997 book, Classification of Mammals above the Species Level, is a comprehensive work on the systematics, relationships and occurrences of all mammal taxa, living and extinct, down through the rank of genus, though molecular genetic data challenge several of the higher level groupings.
McKenna inherited the project from Simpson and, with Bell, constructed a completely updated hierarchical system, covering living and extinct taxa that reflects the historical genealogy of Mammalia.
- Subclass Prototheria: monotremes: echidnas and the platypus
- Subclass Theriiformes: live-bearing mammals and their prehistoric relatives
- Infraclass †Allotheria: multituberculates
- Infraclass †Eutriconodonta: eutriconodonts
- Infraclass Holotheria: modern live-bearing mammals and their prehistoric relatives
- Superlegion †Kuehneotheria
- Supercohort Theria: live-bearing mammals
- Cohort Marsupialia: marsupials
- Magnorder Australidelphia: Australian marsupials and the monito del monte
- Magnorder Ameridelphia: New World marsupials. Now considered paraphyletic, with shrew opossums being closer to australidelphians.
- Cohort Placentalia: placentals
- Magnorder Xenarthra: xenarthrans
- Magnorder Epitheria: epitheres
- Superorder †Leptictida
- Superorder Preptotheria
- Grandorder Anagalida: lagomorphs, rodents and elephant shrews
- Grandorder Ferae: carnivorans, pangolins, †creodonts and relatives
- Grandorder Lipotyphla: insectivorans
- Grandorder Archonta: bats, primates, colugos and treeshrews
- Grandorder Ungulata: ungulates
Molecular classification of placentals
As of the early 21st century, molecular studies based on DNA analysis have suggested new relationships among mammal families.
The relationships between these three lineages is contentious, and all three possible hypotheses have been proposed with respect to which group is basal.
Estimates for the divergence times between these three placental groups range from 105 to 120 million years ago, depending on the type of DNA used (such as nuclear or mitochondrial) and varying interpretations of paleogeographic data.
The cladogram above is based on Tarver et al.
Group I: Superorder Afrotheria
- Clade Afroinsectiphilia
- Order Macroscelidea: elephant shrews (Africa)
- Order Afrosoricida: tenrecs and golden moles (Africa)
- Order Tubulidentata: aardvark (Africa south of the Sahara)
- Clade Paenungulata
Group II: Superorder Xenarthra
- Order Pilosa: sloths and anteaters (neotropical)
- Order Cingulata: armadillos and extinct relatives (Americas)
Group III: Magnaorder Boreoeutheria
- Superorder: Euarchontoglires (Supraprimates)
- Grandorder Euarchonta
- Order Scandentia: treeshrews (Southeast Asia).
- Order Dermoptera: flying lemurs or colugos (Southeast Asia)
- Order Primates: lemurs, bushbabies, monkeys, apes, humans (cosmopolitan)
- Grandorder Glires
- Superorder: Laurasiatheria
- Order Eulipotyphla: shrews, hedgehogs, moles, solenodons
- Clade Scrotifera
- Order Chiroptera: bats (cosmopolitan)
- Clade Fereuungulata
- Clade Ferae
- Order Pholidota: pangolins or scaly anteaters (Africa, South Asia)
- Order Carnivora: carnivores (cosmopolitan), including cats and dogs
- Clade Euungulata
Main article: Evolution of mammals
Synapsida, a clade that contains mammals and their extinct relatives, originated during the Pennsylvanian subperiod (~323 million to ~300 million years ago), when they split from reptilian and avian lineages.
The cladogram takes Mammalia to be the crown group.
Evolution from amniotes
Like their amphibious tetrapod predecessors, they had lungs and limbs.
Amniotic eggs, however, have internal membranes that allow the developing embryo to breathe but keep water in.
Hence, amniotes can lay eggs on dry land, while amphibians generally need to lay their eggs in water.
The first amniotes apparently arose in the Pennsylvanian subperiod of the Carboniferous.
Within a few million years, two important amniote lineages became distinct: the synapsids, which would later include the common ancestor of the mammals; and the sauropsids, which now include turtles, lizards, snakes, crocodilians and dinosaurs (including birds).
Synapsids have a single hole (temporal fenestra) low on each side of the skull.
Nonmammalian synapsids are sometimes (inaccurately) called "mammal-like reptiles".
The therapsid lineage leading to mammals went through a series of stages, beginning with animals that were very similar to their pelycosaur ancestors and ending with probainognathian cynodonts, some of which could easily be mistaken for mammals.
Those stages were characterized by:
- The gradual development of a bony secondary palate.
- Progression towards an erect limb posture, which would increase the animals' stamina by avoiding Carrier's constraint. But this process was slow and erratic: for example, all herbivorous nonmammaliaform therapsids retained sprawling limbs (some late forms may have had semierect hind limbs); Permian carnivorous therapsids had sprawling forelimbs, and some late Permian ones also had semisprawling hindlimbs. In fact, modern monotremes still have semisprawling limbs.
- The dentary gradually became the main bone of the lower jaw which, by the Triassic, progressed towards the fully mammalian jaw (the lower consisting only of the dentary) and middle ear (which is constructed by the bones that were previously used to construct the jaws of reptiles).
The Permian–Triassic extinction event about 252 million years ago, which was a prolonged event due to the accumulation of several extinction pulses, ended the dominance of carnivorous therapsids.
In the early Triassic, most medium to large land carnivore niches were taken over by archosaurs which, over an extended period (35 million years), came to include the crocodylomorphs, the pterosaurs and the dinosaurs; however, large cynodonts like Trucidocynodon and traversodontids still occupied large sized carnivorous and herbivorous niches respectively.
By the Jurassic, the dinosaurs had come to dominate the large terrestrial herbivore niches as well.
The first mammals (in Kemp's sense) appeared in the Late Triassic epoch (about 225 million years ago), 40 million years after the first therapsids.
They expanded out of their nocturnal insectivore niche from the mid-Jurassic onwards; The Jurassic Castorocauda, for example, was a close relative of true mammals that had adaptations for swimming, digging and catching fish.
Most, if not all, are thought to have remained nocturnal (the nocturnal bottleneck), accounting for much of the typical mammalian traits.
The fossil is nearly complete and includes tufts of fur and imprints of soft tissues.
The oldest known fossil among the Eutheria ("true beasts") is the small shrewlike Juramaia sinensis, or "Jurassic mother from China", dated to 160 million years ago in the late Jurassic.
A later eutherian relative, Eomaia, dated to 125 million years ago in the early Cretaceous, possessed some features in common with the marsupials but not with the placentals, evidence that these features were present in the last common ancestor of the two groups but were later lost in the placental lineage.
In particular, the epipubic bones extend forwards from the pelvis.
These are not found in any modern placental, but they are found in marsupials, monotremes, other nontherian mammals and Ukhaatherium, an early Cretaceous animal in the eutherian order Asioryctitheria.
This also applies to the multituberculates.
They are apparently an ancestral feature, which subsequently disappeared in the placental lineage.
These epipubic bones seem to function by stiffening the muscles during locomotion, reducing the amount of space being presented, which placentals require to contain their fetus during gestation periods.
A narrow pelvic outlet indicates that the young were very small at birth and therefore pregnancy was short, as in modern marsupials.
This suggests that the placenta was a later development.
One of the earliest known monotremes was Teinolophos, which lived about 120 million years ago in Australia.
Monotremes have some features which may be inherited from the original amniotes such as the same orifice to urinate, defecate and reproduce (cloaca)—as lizards and birds also do— and they lay eggs which are leathery and uncalcified.
Earliest appearances of features
Hadrocodium, whose fossils date from approximately 195 million years ago, in the early Jurassic, provides the first clear evidence of a jaw joint formed solely by the squamosal and dentary bones; there is no space in the jaw for the articular, a bone involved in the jaws of all early synapsids.
In the 1950s, it was suggested that the foramina (passages) in the maxillae and premaxillae (bones in the front of the upper jaw) of cynodonts were channels which supplied blood vessels and nerves to vibrissae (whiskers) and so were evidence of hair or fur; it was soon pointed out, however, that foramina do not necessarily show that an animal had vibrissae, as the modern lizard Tupinambis has foramina that are almost identical to those found in the nonmammalian cynodont Thrinaxodon.
Popular sources, nevertheless, continue to attribute whiskers to Thrinaxodon.
Modern monotremes have lower body temperatures and more variable metabolic rates than marsupials and placentals, but there is evidence that some of their ancestors, perhaps including ancestors of the therians, may have had body temperatures like those of modern therians.
Likewise, some modern therians like afrotheres and xenarthrans have secondarily developed lower body temperatures.
The evolution of erect limbs in mammals is incomplete—living and fossil monotremes have sprawling limbs.
The parasagittal (nonsprawling) limb posture appeared sometime in the late Jurassic or early Cretaceous; it is found in the eutherian Eomaia and the metatherian Sinodelphys, both dated to 125 million years ago.
Much of the argument is based on monotremes, the egg-laying mammals.
Rise of the mammals
Therian mammals took over the medium- to large-sized ecological niches in the Cenozoic, after the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event approximately 66 million years ago emptied ecological space once filled by non-avian dinosaurs and other groups of reptiles, as well as various other mammal groups, and underwent an exponential increase in body size (megafauna).
Then mammals diversified very quickly; both birds and mammals show an exponential rise in diversity.
For example, the earliest known bat dates from about 50 million years ago, only 16 million years after the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs.
Molecular phylogenetic studies initially suggested that most placental orders diverged about 100 to 85 million years ago and that modern families appeared in the period from the late Eocene through the Miocene.
However, no placental fossils have been found from before the end of the Cretaceous.
The earliest undisputed fossils of placentals comes from the early Paleocene, after the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs.
In particular, scientists have identified an early Paleocene animal named Protungulatum donnae as one of the first placental mammals.
however it has been reclassified as a non-placental eutherian.
Recalibrations of genetic and morphological diversity rates have suggested a Late Cretaceous origin for placentals, and a Paleocene origin for most modern clades.
The earliest known ancestor of primates is Archicebus achilles from around 55 million years ago.
This tiny primate weighed 20–30 grams (0.7–1.1 ounce) and could fit within a human palm.
In classifying fossils, however, other features must be used, since soft tissue glands and many other features are not visible in fossils.
Many traits shared by all living mammals appeared among the earliest members of the group:
- Jaw joint – The dentary (the lower jaw bone, which carries the teeth) and the squamosal (a small cranial bone) meet to form the joint. In most gnathostomes, including early therapsids, the joint consists of the articular (a small bone at the back of the lower jaw) and quadrate (a small bone at the back of the upper jaw).
- Middle ear – In crown-group mammals, sound is carried from the eardrum by a chain of three bones, the malleus, the incus and the stapes. Ancestrally, the malleus and the incus are derived from the articular and the quadrate bones that constituted the jaw joint of early therapsids.
- Tooth replacement – Teeth can be replaced once (diphyodonty) or (as in toothed whales and murid rodents) not at all (monophyodonty). Elephants, manatees, and kangaroos continually grow new teeth throughout their life (polyphyodonty).
- Prismatic enamel – The enamel coating on the surface of a tooth consists of prisms, solid, rod-like structures extending from the dentin to the tooth's surface.
- Occipital condyles – Two knobs at the base of the skull fit into the topmost neck vertebra; most other tetrapods, in contrast, have only one such knob.
For the most part, these characteristics were not present in the Triassic ancestors of the mammals.
Nearly all mammaliaforms possess an epipubic bone, the exception being modern placentals.
On average, male mammals are larger than females, with males being at least 10% larger than females in over 45% of investigated species.
Most mammalian orders are also exhibit male-biased sexual dimorphism, although some orders do not show any bias or are signiﬁcantly female-biased (Lagomorpha).
Sexual size dimorphism increases with body size across mammals (Rensch’s rule), suggesting that there are parallel selection pressures on both male and female size.
Male-biased dimorphism relates to sexual selection on males through male–male competition for females, as there is a positive correlation between the degree of sexual selection, as indicated by mating systems, and the degree of male-biased size dimorphism.
The degree of sexual selection is also positively correlated with male and female size across mammals.
Further, a parallel selection pressure on female mass is identiﬁed in that age at weaning is signiﬁcantly higher in more polygynous species, even when correcting for body mass.
Also, reproductive rate is lower for larger females, indicating that fecundity selection selects for smaller females in mammals.
Although these patterns hold across mammals as a whole, there is considerable variation across orders.
Main article: Biological system
The majority of mammals have seven cervical vertebrae (bones in the neck)\.
All mammalian brains possess a neocortex, a brain region unique to mammals.
Placental brains have a corpus callosum, unlike monotremes and marsupials.
The lungs of mammals are spongy and honeycombed.
Breathing is mainly achieved with the diaphragm, which divides the thorax from the abdominal cavity, forming a dome convex to the thorax.
Contraction of the diaphragm flattens the dome, increasing the volume of the lung cavity.
Relaxing the diaphragm has the opposite effect, decreasing the volume of the lung cavity, causing air to be pushed out of the lungs.
During exercise, the abdominal wall contracts, increasing pressure on the diaphragm, which forces air out quicker and more forcefully.
The rib cage is able to expand and contract the chest cavity through the action of other respiratory muscles.
Consequently, air is sucked into or expelled out of the lungs, always moving down its pressure gradient.
This type of lung is known as a bellows lung due to its resemblance to blacksmith bellows.
The heart has four valves, which separate its chambers and ensures blood flows in the correct direction through the heart (preventing backflow).
Blood flows nearly continuously back into the atrium, which acts as the receiving chamber, and from here through an opening into the left ventricle.
Most blood flows passively into the heart while both the atria and ventricles are relaxed, but toward the end of the ventricular relaxation period, the left atrium will contract, pumping blood into the ventricle.
The heart also requires nutrients and oxygen found in blood like other muscles, and is supplied via coronary arteries.
The epidermis is typically 10 to 30 cells thick; its main function is to provide a waterproof layer.
Its outermost cells are constantly lost; its bottommost cells are constantly dividing and pushing upward.
The middle layer, the dermis, is 15 to 40 times thicker than the epidermis.
The dermis is made up of many components, such as bony structures and blood vessels.
The hypodermis is made up of adipose tissue, which stores lipids and provides cushioning and insulation.
It is a definitive characteristic of the class, though some mammals have very little.
Herbivores have developed a diverse range of physical structures to facilitate the consumption of plant material.
To break up intact plant tissues, mammals have developed teeth structures that reflect their feeding preferences.
Most carnivorous mammals have carnassialiforme teeth (of varying length depending on diet), long canines and similar tooth replacement patterns.
After the plant material is consumed, it is mixed with saliva in the rumen and reticulum and separates into solid and liquid material.
When the bolus enters the mouth, the fluid is squeezed out with the tongue and swallowed again.
Carnivora have a simple stomach adapted to digest primarily meat, as compared to the elaborate digestive systems of herbivorous animals, which are necessary to break down tough, complex plant fibers.
The mammalian excretory system involves many components.
Distinctive features of the mammalian kidney include the presence of the renal pelvis and renal pyramids, and of a clearly distinguishable cortex and medulla, which is due to the presence of elongated loops of Henle.
Most adult placental mammals have no remaining trace of the cloaca.
In the embryo, the embryonic cloaca divides into a posterior region that becomes part of the anus, and an anterior region that has different fates depending on the sex of the individual: in females, it develops into the vestibule that receives the urethra and vagina, while in males it forms the entirety of the penile urethra.
In marsupials, the genital tract is separate from the anus, but a trace of the original cloaca does remain externally.
Monotremes, which translates from Greek into "single hole", have a true cloaca.
The lungs and surrounding musculature provide the air stream and pressure required to phonate.
More primitive mammals, such as the echidna, can only hiss, as sound is achieved solely through exhaling through a partially closed larynx.
Other mammals phonate using vocal folds, as opposed to the vocal cords seen in birds and reptiles.
Mammals can change the position of the larynx, allowing them to breathe through the nose while swallowing through the mouth, and to form both oral and nasal sounds; nasal sounds, such as a dog whine, are generally soft sounds, and oral sounds, such as a dog bark, are generally loud.
Some mammals have a large larynx and thus a low-pitched voice, namely the hammer-headed bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) where the larynx can take up the entirety of the thoracic cavity while pushing the lungs, heart, and trachea into the abdomen.
Large vocal pads can also lower the pitch, as in the low-pitched roars of big cats.
Ultrasound is inaudible to birds and reptiles, which might have been important during the Mesozoic, when birds and reptiles were the dominant predators.
This private channel is used by some rodents in, for example, mother-to-pup communication, and by bats when echolocating.
Toothed whales also use echolocation, but, as opposed to the vocal membrane that extends upward from the vocal folds, they have a melon to manipulate sounds.
Some mammals, namely the primates, have air sacs attached to the larynx, which may function to lower the resonances or increase the volume of sound.
The ability to learn new vocalizations is only exemplified in humans, seals, cetaceans, elephants and possibly bats; in humans, this is the result of a direct connection between the motor cortex, which controls movement, and the motor neurons in the spinal cord.
Main article: Fur
The primary function of the fur of mammals is thermoregulation.
Others include protection, sensory purposes, waterproofing, and camouflage.
Different types of fur serve different purposes:
- Definitive – which may be shed after reaching a certain length
- Vibrissae – sensory hairs, most commonly whiskers
- Pelage – guard hairs, under-fur, and awn hair
- Spines – stiff guard hair used for defense (such as in porcupines)
- Bristles – long hairs usually used in visual signals. (such as a lion's mane)
- Velli – often called "down fur" which insulates newborn mammals
- Wool – long, soft and often curly
Hair length is not a factor in thermoregulation: for example, some tropical mammals such as sloths have the same length of fur length as some arctic mammals but with less insulation; and, conversely, other tropical mammals with short hair have the same insulating value as arctic mammals.
The denseness of fur can increase an animal's insulation value, and arctic mammals especially have dense fur; for example, the musk ox has guard hairs measuring 30 cm (12 in) as well as a dense underfur, which forms an airtight coat, allowing them to survive in temperatures of −40 °C (−40 °F).
Some desert mammals, such as camels, use dense fur to prevent solar heat from reaching their skin, allowing the animal to stay cool; a camel's fur may reach 70 °C (158 °F) in the summer, but the skin stays at 40 °C (104 °F).
Aquatic mammals, conversely, trap air in their fur to conserve heat by keeping the skin dry.
Coloration in both the hair and skin of mammals is mainly determined by the type and amount of melanin; eumelanins for brown and black colors and pheomelanin for a range of yellowish to reddish colors, giving mammals an earth tone.
Camouflage is a powerful influence in a large number of mammals, as it helps to conceal individuals from predators or prey.
In arctic and subarctic mammals such as the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus), collared lemming (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus), stoat (Mustela erminea), and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), seasonal color change between brown in summer and white in winter is driven largely by camouflage.
Some arboreal mammals, notably primates and marsupials, have shades of violet, green, or blue skin on parts of their bodies, indicating some distinct advantage in their largely arboreal habitat due to convergent evolution.
Aposematism, warning off possible predators, is the most likely explanation of the black-and-white pelage of many mammals which are able to defend themselves, such as in the foul-smelling skunk and the powerful and aggressive honey badger.
Differences in female and male coat color may indicate nutrition and hormone levels, important in mate selection.
Coat color may influence the ability to retain heat, depending on how much light is reflected.
Mammals with a darker colored coat can absorb more heat from solar radiation, and stay warmer, and some smaller mammals, such as voles, have darker fur in the winter.
The white, pigmentless fur of arctic mammals, such as the polar bear, may reflect more solar radiation directly onto the skin.
The dazzling black-and-white striping of zebras appear to provide some protection from biting flies.
Main article: Mammalian reproduction
In male placentals, the penis is used both for urination and copulation.
Depending on the species, an erection may be fueled by blood flow into vascular, spongy tissue or by muscular action.
Marsupials typically have forked penises, while the echidna penis generally has four heads with only two functioning.
Marsupials have two lateral vaginas and a medial vagina.
The "vagina" of monotremes is better understood as a "urogenital sinus".
The uterine systems of placental mammals can vary between a duplex, were there are two uteri and cervices which open into the vagina, a bipartite, were two uterine horns have a single cervix that connects to the vagina, a bicornuate, which consists where two uterine horns that are connected distally but separate medially creating a Y-shape, and a simplex, which has a single uterus.
The ancestral condition for mammal reproduction is the birthing of relatively undeveloped, either through direct vivipary or a short period as soft-shelled eggs.
This is likely due to the fact that the torso could not expand due to the presence of epipubic bones.
Most modern mammals are viviparous, giving birth to live young.
However, the five species of monotreme, the platypus and the four species of echidna, lay eggs.
The monotremes have a sex determination system different from that of most other mammals.
In particular, the sex chromosomes of a platypus are more like those of a chicken than those of a therian mammal.
Viviparous mammals are in the subclass Theria; those living today are in the marsupial and placental infraclasses.
Marsupials have a short gestation period, typically shorter than its estrous cycle and gives birth to an undeveloped newborn that then undergoes further development; in many species, this takes place within a pouch-like sac, the marsupium, located in the front of the mother's abdomen.
This is the plesiomorphic condition among viviparous mammals; the presence of epipubic bones in all non-placental mammals prevents the expansion of the torso needed for full pregnancy.
Even non-placental eutherians probably reproduced this way.
The placentals give birth to relatively complete and developed young, usually after long gestation periods.
They get their name from the placenta, which connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake.
In placental mammals, the epipubic is either completely lost or converted into the baculum; allowing the torso to be able to expand and thus birth developed offspring.
The mammary glands of mammals are specialized to produce milk, the primary source of nutrition for newborns.
The monotremes branched early from other mammals and do not have the nipples seen in most mammals, but they do have mammary glands.
The young lick the milk from a mammary patch on the mother's belly.
Compared to placental mammals, the milk of marsupials changes greatly in both production rate and in nutrient composition, due to the underdeveloped young.
In addition, the mammary glands have more autonomy allowing them to supply separate milks to young at different development stages.
Weaning is the process in which a mammal becomes less dependent on their mother's milk and more on solid food.
Nearly all mammals are endothermic ("warm-blooded").
Most mammals also have hair to help keep them warm.
Like birds, mammals can forage or hunt in weather and climates too cold for ectothermic ("cold-blooded") reptiles and insects.
Endothermy requires plenty of food energy, so mammals eat more food per unit of body weight than most reptiles.
Small insectivorous mammals eat prodigious amounts for their size.
Birds are also endothermic, so endothermy is not unique to mammals.
Although the underlying basis for these lifespan differences is still uncertain, numerous studies indicate that the ability to repair DNA damage is an important determinant of mammalian lifespan.
In a 1974 study by Hart and Setlow, it was found that DNA excision repair capability increased systematically with species lifespan among seven mammalian species.
Species lifespan was observed to be robustly correlated with the capacity to recognize DNA double-strand breaks as well as the level of the DNA repair protein Ku80.
In a study of the cells from sixteen mammalian species, genes employed in DNA repair were found to be up-regulated in the longer-lived species.
The cellular level of the DNA repair enzyme poly ADP ribose polymerase was found to correlate with species lifespan in a study of 13 mammalian species.
Three additional studies of a variety of mammalian species also reported a correlation between species lifespan and DNA repair capability.
Main article: Animal locomotion
Main article: Terrestrial locomotion
Most vertebrates—the amphibians, the reptiles and some mammals such as humans and bears—are plantigrade, walking on the whole of the underside of the foot.
Many mammals, such as cats and dogs, are digitigrade, walking on their toes, the greater stride length allowing more speed.
Digitigrade mammals are also often adept at quiet movement.
This even further increases their stride length and thus their speed.
A few mammals, namely the great apes, are also known to walk on their knuckles, at least for their front legs.
Giant anteaters and platypuses are also knuckle-walkers.
Some mammals are bipeds, using only two limbs for locomotion, which can be seen in, for example, humans and the great apes.
Bipedal species have a larger field of vision than quadrupeds, conserve more energy and have the ability to manipulate objects with their hands, which aids in foraging.
Instead of walking, some bipeds hop, such as kangaroos and kangaroo rats.
Animals will use different gaits for different speeds, terrain and situations.
Animals may also have unusual gaits that are used occasionally, such as for moving sideways or backwards.
Mammals show a vast range of gaits, the order that they place and lift their appendages in locomotion.
Gaits can be grouped into categories according to their patterns of support sequence.
For quadrupeds, there are three main categories: walking gaits, running gaits and leaping gaits.
Walking is the most common gait, where some feet are on the ground at any given time, and found in almost all legged animals.
Running is considered to occur when at some points in the stride all feet are off the ground in a moment of suspension.
Main article: Arboreal locomotion
Arboreal animals frequently have elongated limbs that help them cross gaps, reach fruit or other resources, test the firmness of support ahead and, in some cases, to brachiate (swing between trees).
In the spider monkey, the tip of the tail has either a bare patch or adhesive pad, which provides increased friction.
Claws can be used to interact with rough substrates and reorient the direction of forces the animal applies.
This is what allows squirrels to climb tree trunks that are so large to be essentially flat from the perspective of such a small animal.
However, claws can interfere with an animal's ability to grasp very small branches, as they may wrap too far around and prick the animal's own paw.
Frictional gripping is used by primates, relying upon hairless fingertips.
Squeezing the branch between the fingertips generates frictional force that holds the animal's hand to the branch.
However, this type of grip depends upon the angle of the frictional force, thus upon the diameter of the branch, with larger branches resulting in reduced gripping ability.
To control descent, especially down large diameter branches, some arboreal animals such as squirrels have evolved highly mobile ankle joints that permit rotating the foot into a 'reversed' posture.
This allows the claws to hook into the rough surface of the bark, opposing the force of gravity.
Small size provides many advantages to arboreal species: such as increasing the relative size of branches to the animal, lower center of mass, increased stability, lower mass (allowing movement on smaller branches) and the ability to move through more cluttered habitat.
Size relating to weight affects gliding animals such as the sugar glider.
Some species of primate, bat and all species of sloth achieve passive stability by hanging beneath the branch.
Both pitching and tipping become irrelevant, as the only method of failure would be losing their grip.
Main article: Aerial locomotion
Bats are the only mammals that can truly fly.
They fly through the air at a constant speed by moving their wings up and down (usually with some fore-aft movement as well).
Because the animal is in motion, there is some airflow relative to its body which, combined with the velocity of the wings, generates a faster airflow moving over the wing.
This generates a lift force vector pointing forwards and upwards, and a drag force vector pointing rearwards and upwards.
The upwards components of these counteract gravity, keeping the body in the air, while the forward component provides thrust to counteract both the drag from the wing and from the body as a whole.
The wings of bats are much thinner and consist of more bones than those of birds, allowing bats to maneuver more accurately and fly with more lift and less drag.
By folding the wings inwards towards their body on the upstroke, they use 35% less energy during flight than birds.
The membranes are delicate, ripping easily; however, the tissue of the bat's membrane is able to regrow, such that small tears can heal quickly.
The surface of their wings is equipped with touch-sensitive receptors on small bumps called Merkel cells, also found on human fingertips.
These sensitive areas are different in bats, as each bump has a tiny hair in the center, making it even more sensitive and allowing the bat to detect and collect information about the air flowing over its wings, and to fly more efficiently by changing the shape of its wings in response.
Fossorial and subterranean
A fossorial (from Latin fossor, meaning "digger") is an animal adapted to digging which lives primarily, but not solely, underground.
Many rodent species are also considered fossorial because they live in burrows for most but not all of the day.
Species that live exclusively underground are subterranean, and those with limited adaptations to a fossorial lifestyle sub-fossorial.
Fossorial mammals have a fusiform body, thickest at the shoulders and tapering off at the tail and nose.
Unable to see in the dark burrows, most have degenerated eyes, but degeneration varies between species; pocket gophers, for example, are only semi-fossorial and have very small yet functional eyes, in the fully fossorial marsupial mole the eyes are degenerated and useless, talpa moles have vestigial eyes and the cape golden mole has a layer of skin covering the eyes.
External ears flaps are also very small or absent.
Truly fossorial mammals have short, stout legs as strength is more important than speed to a burrowing mammal, but semi-fossorial mammals have cursorial legs.
The front paws are broad and have strong claws to help in loosening dirt while excavating burrows, and the back paws have webbing, as well as claws, which aids in throwing loosened dirt backwards.
Most have large incisors to prevent dirt from flying into their mouth.
Many fossorial mammals such as shrews, hedgehogs, and moles were classified under the now obsolete order Insectivora.
Fully aquatic mammals, the cetaceans and sirenians, have lost their legs and have a tail fin to propel themselves through the water.
Flipper movement is continuous.
Whales swim by moving their tail fin and lower body up and down, propelling themselves through vertical movement, while their flippers are mainly used for steering.
Their skeletal anatomy allows them to be fast swimmers.
Most species have a dorsal fin to prevent themselves from turning upside-down in the water.
The flukes of sirenians are raised up and down in long strokes to move the animal forward, and can be twisted to turn.
The forelimbs are paddle-like flippers which aid in turning and slowing.
Semi-aquatic mammals, like pinnipeds, have two pairs of flippers on the front and back, the fore-flippers and hind-flippers.
The elbows and ankles are enclosed within the body.
Pinnipeds have several adaptions for reducing drag.
They also lack arrector pili, so their fur can be streamlined as they swim.
Fore-flipper movement is not continuous, and the animal glides between each stroke.
Compared to terrestrial carnivorans, the fore-limbs are reduced in length, which gives the locomotor muscles at the shoulder and elbow joints greater mechanical advantage; the hind-flippers serve as stabilizers.
Hippos are very large semi-aquatic mammals, and their barrel-shaped bodies have skeletal structures, adapted to carrying their enormous weight, and their specific gravity allows them to sink and move along the bottom of a river.
Communication and vocalization
Many mammals communicate by vocalizing.
Vocal communication serves many purposes, including in mating rituals, as warning calls, to indicate food sources, and for social purposes.
The songs of the humpback whale may be signals to females; they have different dialects in different regions of the ocean.
The vervet monkey gives a distinct alarm call for each of at least four different predators, and the reactions of other monkeys vary according to the call.
For example, if an alarm call signals a python, the monkeys climb into the trees, whereas the eagle alarm causes monkeys to seek a hiding place on the ground.
Prairie dogs similarly have complex calls that signal the type, size, and speed of an approaching predator.
Elephants communicate socially with a variety of sounds including snorting, screaming, trumpeting, roaring and rumbling.
Some of the rumbling calls are infrasonic, below the hearing range of humans, and can be heard by other elephants up to 6 miles (9.7 km) away at still times near sunrise and sunset.
Mammals signal by a variety of means.
Many give visual anti-predator signals, as when deer and gazelle stot, honestly indicating their fit condition and their ability to escape, or when white-tailed deer and other prey mammals flag with conspicuous tail markings when alarmed, informing the predator that it has been detected.
Many mammals make use of scent-marking, sometimes possibly to help defend territory, but probably with a range of functions both within and between species.
To maintain a high constant body temperature is energy expensive—mammals therefore need a nutritious and plentiful diet.
While the earliest mammals were probably predators, different species have since adapted to meet their dietary requirements in a variety of ways.
Some eat other animals—this is a carnivorous diet (and includes insectivorous diets).
An herbivorous diet includes subtypes such as granivory (seed eating), folivory (leaf eating), frugivory (fruit eating), nectarivory (nectar eating), gummivory (gum eating) and mycophagy (fungus eating).
The digestive tract of an herbivore is host to bacteria that ferment these complex substances, and make them available for digestion, which are either housed in the multichambered stomach or in a large cecum.
An omnivore eats both prey and plants.
The size of an animal is also a factor in determining diet type (Allen's rule).
Since small mammals have a high ratio of heat-losing surface area to heat-generating volume, they tend to have high energy requirements and a high metabolic rate.
Mammals that weigh less than about 18 ounces (510 g; 1.1 lb) are mostly insectivorous because they cannot tolerate the slow, complex digestive process of an herbivore.
Larger animals, on the other hand, generate more heat and less of this heat is lost.
They can therefore tolerate either a slower collection process (carnivores that feed on larger vertebrates) or a slower digestive process (herbivores).
Furthermore, mammals that weigh more than 18 ounces (510 g; 1.1 lb) usually cannot collect enough insects during their waking hours to sustain themselves.
Some mammals are omnivores and display varying degrees of carnivory and herbivory, generally leaning in favor of one more than the other.
Since plants and meat are digested differently, there is a preference for one over the other, as in bears where some species may be mostly carnivorous and others mostly herbivorous.
The dentition of hypocarnivores consists of dull, triangular carnassial teeth meant for grinding food.
Hypercarnivores, however, have conical teeth and sharp carnassials meant for slashing, and in some cases strong jaws for bone-crushing, as in the case of hyenas, allowing them to consume bones; some extinct groups, notably the Machairodontinae, had saber-shaped canines.
Some physiological carnivores consume plant matter and some physiological herbivores consume meat.
From a behavioral aspect, this would make them omnivores, but from the physiological standpoint, this may be due to zoopharmacognosy.
Physiologically, animals must be able to obtain both energy and nutrients from plant and animal materials to be considered omnivorous.
Thus, such animals are still able to be classified as carnivores and herbivores when they are just obtaining nutrients from materials originating from sources that do not seemingly complement their classification.
For example, it is well documented that some ungulates such as giraffes, camels, and cattle, will gnaw on bones to consume particular minerals and nutrients.
Also, cats, which are generally regarded as obligate carnivores, occasionally eat grass to regurgitate indigestible material (such as hairballs), aid with hemoglobin production, and as a laxative.
Many mammals, in the absence of sufficient food requirements in an environment, suppress their metabolism and conserve energy in a process known as hibernation.
In the period preceding hibernation, larger mammals, such as bears, become polyphagic to increase fat stores, whereas smaller mammals prefer to collect and stash food.
The slowing of the metabolism is accompanied by a decreased heart and respiratory rate, as well as a drop in internal temperatures, which can be around ambient temperature in some cases.
For example, the internal temperatures of hibernating arctic ground squirrels can drop to −2.9 °C (26.8 °F), however the head and neck always stay above 0 °C (32 °F).
See also: Animal cognition
Intelligence itself is not easy to define, but indications of intelligence include the ability to learn, matched with behavioral flexibility.
In some mammals, food gathering appears to be related to intelligence: a deer feeding on plants has a brain smaller than a cat, which must think to outwit its prey.
Tools may even be used in solving puzzles in which the animal appears to experience a "Eureka moment".
Other mammals that do not use tools, such as dogs, can also experience a Eureka moment.
Brain size was previously considered a major indicator of the intelligence of an animal.
Since most of the brain is used for maintaining bodily functions, greater ratios of brain to body mass may increase the amount of brain mass available for more complex cognitive tasks.
Allometric analysis indicates that mammalian brain size scales at approximately the ⁄3 or ⁄4 exponent of the body mass.
Comparison of a particular animal's brain size with the expected brain size based on such allometric analysis provides an encephalisation quotient that can be used as another indication of animal intelligence.
Sperm whales have the largest brain mass of any animal on earth, averaging 8,000 cubic centimetres (490 in) and 7.8 kilograms (17 lb) in mature males.
Self-awareness appears to be a sign of abstract thinking.
Self-awareness, although not well-defined, is believed to be a precursor to more advanced processes such as metacognitive reasoning.
The traditional method for measuring this is the mirror test, which determines if an animal possesses the ability of self-recognition.
Mammals that have passed the mirror test include Asian elephants (some pass, some do not); chimpanzees; bonobos; orangutans; humans, from 18 months (mirror stage); bottlenose dolphins killer whales; and false killer whales.
Main article: Social animal
Eusociality is the highest level of social organization.
These societies have an overlap of adult generations, the division of reproductive labor and cooperative caring of young.
Presociality is when animals exhibit more than just sexual interactions with members of the same species, but fall short of qualifying as eusocial.
That is, presocial animals can display communal living, cooperative care of young, or primitive division of reproductive labor, but they do not display all of the three essential traits of eusocial animals.
Harry Harlow set up an experiment with rhesus monkeys, presocial primates, in 1958; the results from this study showed that social encounters are necessary in order for the young monkeys to develop both mentally and sexually.
A fission-fusion society is a society that changes frequently in its size and composition, making up a permanent social group called the "parent group".
Permanent social networks consist of all individual members of a community and often varies to track changes in their environment.
In a fission–fusion society, the main parent group can fracture (fission) into smaller stable subgroups or individuals to adapt to environmental or social circumstances.
For example, a number of males may break off from the main group in order to hunt or forage for food during the day, but at night they may return to join (fusion) the primary group to share food and partake in other activities.
Solitary animals defend a territory and avoid social interactions with the members of its species, except during breeding season.
This is to avoid resource competition, as two individuals of the same species would occupy the same niche, and to prevent depletion of food.
A solitary animal, while foraging, can also be less conspicuous to predators or prey.
In a hierarchy, individuals are either dominant or submissive.
A despotic hierarchy is where one individual is dominant while the others are submissive, as in wolves and lemurs, and a pecking order is a linear ranking of individuals where there is a top individual and a bottom individual.
Pecking orders may also be ranked by sex, where the lowest individual of a sex has a higher ranking than the top individual of the other sex, as in hyenas.
Dominant individuals, or alphas, have a high chance of reproductive success, especially in harems where one or a few males (resident males) have exclusive breeding rights to females in a group.
Non-resident males can also be accepted in harems, but some species, such as the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), may be more strict.
There are three types of polygamy: either one or multiple dominant males have breeding rights (polygyny), multiple males that females mate with (polyandry), or multiple males have exclusive relations with multiple females (polygynandry).
It is much more common for polygynous mating to happen, which, excluding leks, are estimated to occur in up to 90% of mammals.
Lek mating occurs when males congregate around females and try to attract them with various courtship displays and vocalizations, as in harbor seals.
All higher mammals (excluding monotremes) share two major adaptations for care of the young: live birth and lactation.
These imply a group-wide choice of a degree of parental care.
They may build nests and dig burrows to raise their young in, or feed and guard them often for a prolonged period of time.
When two animals mate, they both share an interest in the success of the offspring, though often to different extremes.
Mammalian females exhibit some degree of maternal aggression, another example of parental care, which may be targeted against other females of the species or the young of other females; however, some mammals may "aunt" the infants of other females, and care for them.
Mammalian males may play a role in child rearing, as with tenrecs, however this varies species to species, even within the same genus.
Humans and other mammals
Main article: Human uses of mammals
In human culture
Non-human mammals play a wide variety of roles in human culture.
There is a tension between the role of animals as companions to humans, and their existence as individuals with rights of their own.
Mammals further play a wide variety of roles in literature, film, mythology, and religion.
Uses and importance
Working domestic animals including cattle and horses have been used for work and transport from the origins of agriculture, their numbers declining with the arrival of mechanised transport and agricultural machinery.
In 2004 they still provided some 80% of the power for the mainly small farms in the third world, and some 20% of the world's transport, again mainly in rural areas.
In mountainous regions unsuitable for wheeled vehicles, pack animals continue to transport goods.
Mammals serve a major role in science as experimental animals, both in fundamental biological research, such as in genetics, and in the development of new medicines, which must be tested exhaustively to demonstrate their safety.
Millions of mammals, especially mice and rats, are used in experiments each year.
They enable the study of sequenced genes whose functions are unknown.
A small percentage of the mammals are non-human primates, used in research for their similarity to humans.
Charles Darwin, Jared Diamond and others have noted the importance of domesticated mammals in the Neolithic development of agriculture and of civilization, causing farmers to replace hunter-gatherers around the world.
The new agricultural economies, based on domesticated mammals, caused "radical restructuring of human societies, worldwide alterations in biodiversity, and significant changes in the Earth's landforms and its atmosphere... momentous outcomes".
Main article: Hybrid (biology)
Hybrids are offspring resulting from the breeding of two genetically distinct individuals, which usually will result in a high degree of heterozygosity, though hybrid and heterozygous are not synonymous.
The deliberate or accidental hybridizing of two or more species of closely related animals through captive breeding is a human activity which has been in existence for millennia and has grown for economic purposes.
Hybrids between different species within the same genus (such as between lions and tigers) are known as interspecific hybrids or crosses.
Hybrids between different genera (such as between sheep and goats) are known as intergeneric hybrids.
Natural hybrids will occur in hybrid zones, where two populations of species within the same genera or species living in the same or adjacent areas will interbreed with each other.
Some hybrids have been recognized as species, such as the red wolf (though this is controversial).
Artificial selection, the deliberate selective breeding of domestic animals, is being used to breed back recently extinct animals in an attempt to achieve an animal breed with a phenotype that resembles that extinct wildtype ancestor.
A breeding-back (intraspecific) hybrid may be very similar to the extinct wildtype in appearance, ecological niche and to some extent genetics, but the initial gene pool of that wild type is lost forever with its extinction.
Purebred wild species evolved to a specific ecology can be threatened with extinction through the process of genetic pollution, the uncontrolled hybridization, introgression genetic swamping which leads to homogenization or out-competition from the heterosic hybrid species.
When new populations are imported or selectively bred by people, or when habitat modification brings previously isolated species into contact, extinction in some species, especially rare varieties, is possible.
Interbreeding can swamp the rarer gene pool and create hybrids, depleting the purebred gene pool.
Such extinctions are not always apparent from a morphological standpoint.
Some degree of gene flow is a normal evolutionary process, nevertheless, hybridization threatens the existence of rare species.
See also: Holocene extinction
The loss of species from ecological communities, defaunation, is primarily driven by human activity.
This has resulted in empty forests, ecological communities depleted of large vertebrates.
One hypothesis is that humans hunted large mammals, such as the woolly mammoth, into extinction.
The 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by IPBES states that the total biomass of wild mammals has declined by 82 percent since the beginning of human civilization.
Wild animals make up just 4% of mammalian biomass on earth, while humans and their domesticated animals make up 96%.
According to the WWF's 2020 Living Planet Report, vertebrate wildlife populations have declined by 68% since 1970 as a result of human activities, particularly overconsumption, population growth and intensive farming, which is evidence that humans have triggered a sixth mass extinction event.
Hunting alone threatens hundreds of mammalian species around the world.
Scientists claim that the growing demand for meat is contributing to biodiversity loss as this is a significant driver of deforestation and habitat destruction; species-rich habitats, such as significant portions of the Amazon rainforest, are being converted to agricultural land for meat production.
The effects of poaching can especially be seen in the ivory trade with African elephants.
Marine mammals are at risk from entanglement from fishing gear, notably cetaceans, with discard mortalities ranging from 65,000 to 86,000 individuals annually.
Attention is being given to endangered species globally, notably through the Convention on Biological Diversity, otherwise known as the Rio Accord, which includes 189 signatory countries that are focused on identifying endangered species and habitats.
Another notable conservation organization is the IUCN, which has a membership of over 1,200 governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Recent extinctions can be directly attributed to human influences.
The IUCN characterizes 'recent' extinction as those that have occurred past the cut-off point of 1500, and around 80 mammal species have gone extinct since that time and 2015.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammal.