General Mammalian Characteristics:
- Possess hair which is made of keratin. The evolution of mammalian keratin is believed to be independent of reptilian keratin. Hair provides insulation .
- Endothermic. The majority of the heat energy is used to maintain their high body temperature.
- 4 chambered heart.
- Mammary glands are used to produce milk to nourish their young. Female glands are the only functional glands.
- The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.
- 7 cervical vertebrae (neck bones) are present in most mammals.
- Most are viviparous though some are oviparous. An extended gestation period (uterine development) is common in most placental mammals.
- Teeth are imbedded in the jaw bone and come in a variety of forms.
- Well developed brain.
- Mammals developed from the therapsid ancestors during the Triassic period.
Major Groups of Mammals:
- Monotremes. Characterized by the duckbilled platypus and the spiny anteaters, lay eggs and maintain some reptilian characteristics. They do not contain true mammary glands, but produce a fatty sweat (milk) from glands in the skin. The milk collects and drips down tufts of hair into the offspring's mouth. They are found in Australia and New Guinea.
- Marsupials. These mammals contain a pouch (marsupium). Opossums,koalas,kangaroos, and other examples live in Australia as a result of the break up of the super continent Pangea. The young are born during the early stages of development. The new born crawls up to the mother's pouch, where it clings on to a nipple and hangs there until it fully develops.
- Placental Mammals. These mammals are the most abundant and diverse of the class. The placenta, a reproductive structure, is housed in the uterus of the female. Here the offspring receives all that it needs to develop into a fully developed organism. This period of development (gestation) varies with the species of mammal. Whales gestate for 2 years, while a mouse develops in 21 days.
Chart of Placental Mammals
Order Characteristics Examples Carnivora Eats meat, all teeth are pointed cats and dogs , seals, walrus, weasels, and martins Chiroptera
wings used for flight, diet includes insects and vegetation
opposable thumb, plantigrade foot, usually one offspring at birth.
man , apes, monkeys,tarsiers,and lemurs Edentata lacking teeth, large claws for digging sloths, armadillos, South American anteater Rodentia 2 incisors on both jaws, diastema between incisors and premolars rats, mice, squirrels, beavers, gophers, and capybara Lagmorpha 4 incisor teeth, canine teeth lacking, short stubby tails rabbits, hares,pikas Cetacea flippers, opening on top of head dolphins,whales,porpoises Proboscidea Great size,nose and upper lip form proboscis, upper incisors are tusks,thick skin,scant hair elephant Sirenia Herbivorous, aquatic, no external ears, flippers, no hind appendages Manatees and dugongs Perissodactyla Odd-toed,hoofed forms,gall bladder lacking, herbivorous horses, donkeys,zebras,tapirs Artiodactyla Even-toed, hoofed forms, herbivorous, true horns or antlers present Cattle,pigs,camels,deer,hippopotami