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Studying mammals: Chisellers

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Ever wondered why rats, mice and squirrels seem to reproduce at such an alarming rate? Rodents are among the most successful of all the mammal groups. In this free course, Studying mammals: Chisellers, you will learn more about some of the evolutionary features that make these creatures so plentiful. This is the third course in the Studying mammals series.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • explain the implications of a seed/nut-eating habit
  • suggest why rodents are a successful order of mammals
  • describe adaptation, based on knowledge of the theory of biological evolution by natural selection
  • explain how altruistic characteristics can be understood in terms of kin selection and inclusive fitness
  • give examples of the fitness costs and benefits associated with different reproductive behaviours.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 10 hours
  • Updated Wednesday 16th March 2016
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Natural History
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Studying mammals: Chisellers


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All of the animals described in this course are members of the mammalian order Rodentia. The rodents are widely regarded as amongst the most successful of all the mammalian groups. We will examine some features of rodent biology that contribute to their success, in particular their exploitation of a unique range of plant foods, especially seeds, wood and roots. While focusing on rodent feeding behaviour and reproduction, we will also be exploring some more general ideas concerning the origin of the features that make an important contribution to rodent success.

To get the most out of this course you will need access to a copy of The Life of Mammals (2002) by David Attenborough, BBC Books (ISBN 0563534230), and The Life of Mammals (2002) on DVD, which contains the associated series of ten BBC TV programmes. You should begin each course by watching the relevant TV programme on the DVD and reading the corresponding chapter in The Life of Mammals. You will be asked to rewatch specific sequences from the programme as you work through the course.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 1 study in Environment & Development [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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