Large mammals make soil more fertile in tropical forests

The White-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) is a boar-like hoofed mammal found throughout Central and South America. These animals roam the forest in bands of 50 to 100 individuals, eating a wide variety of foods. In Brazil's ...

How Earth's oddest mammal got to be so bizarre

Often considered the world's oddest mammal, Australia's beaver-like, duck-billed platypus exhibits an array of bizarre characteristics: it lays eggs instead of giving birth to live babies, sweats milk, has venomous spurs ...

Why feral cats are such a threat to Australian wildlife

A team of researchers at the University of Tasmania has determined why feral cats are such a threat to wildlife in Australia. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the group describes comparing the ...

Humpback whales impacted by climate change

The breeding success of humpback whales in the Gulf of St Lawrence has fallen significantly, according to a new study led by the University of St Andrews.

Researchers uncover unequal effects of human activity on mammals

Walking along the Tech Green, you are likely to see squirrels, birds, and the occasional chipmunk scurrying along among passing students. These small critters seem to be thriving in urban environments across the world, but ...

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Mammal

Mammals (formally Mammalia) are a class of vertebrate animals whose females are characterized by the possession of mammary glands while both males and females are characterized by sweat glands, hair, three middle ear bones used in hearing, and a neocortex region in the brain.

Mammals are divided into three main categories depending how they are born. These categories are, monotremes, marsupials and placentals. Except for the five species of monotremes (which lay eggs), all mammal species give birth to live young. Most mammals also possess specialized teeth, and the largest group of mammals, the placentals, use a placenta during gestation. The mammalian brain regulates endothermic and circulatory systems, including a four-chambered heart.

There are approximately 5,400 species of mammals, distributed in about 1,200 genera, 153 families, and 29 orders (though this varies by classification scheme). Mammals range in size from the 30–40-millimetre (1.2–1.6 in) Bumblebee Bat to the 33-metre (110 ft) Blue Whale.

Mammals are divided into two subclasses, the prototheria, which includes the oviparous monotremes, and the theria, which includes the placentals and live-bearing marsupials. Most mammals, including the six largest orders, belong to the placental group. The three largest orders, in descending order, are Rodentia (mice, rats, and other small, gnawing mammals), Chiroptera (bats), and Soricomorpha (shrews, moles and solenodons). The next three largest orders include the Carnivora (dogs, cats, weasels, bears, seals, and their relatives), the Cetartiodactyla (including the even-toed hoofed mammals and the whales) and the Primates to which the human species belongs. The relative size of these latter three orders differs according to the classification scheme and definitions used by various authors.

Phylogenetically, Mammalia is defined as all descendants of the most recent common ancestor of monotremes (e.g., echidnas and platypuses) and therian mammals (marsupials and placentals). This means that some extinct groups of "mammals" are not members of the crown group Mammalia, even though most of them have all the characteristics that traditionally would have classified them as mammals. These "mammals" are now usually placed in the unranked clade Mammaliaformes.

The mammalian line of descent diverged from an amniote line at the end of the Carboniferous period. One line of amniotes would lead to reptiles, while the other would lead to synapsids, including mammals. The first true mammals appeared in the Triassic period. Modern mammalian orders appeared in the Palaeocene and Eocene epochs of the Palaeogene period.

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