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Studying mammals: Chisellers
Ever wondered why rats, mice and squirrels seem to reproduce at such an alarming rate?...
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 unit you will learn more about some of the evolutionary features that make these creatures so plentiful. This is the third unit in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.
By the end of this unit 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;
- illustrate the importance of environmental factors in determining the mating system used.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 The rodent
- 2 You are what you eat
- 3 Some principles that underpin evolutionary change
- 4 Individual lives: the concept of fitness
- 5 Different reproductive strategies
- 6 Reflection
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Studying mammals: Chisellers
All of the animals described in this unit 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 unit 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 unit 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 unit.
This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Studying mammals (S182) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in.
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Natural History courses or view the range of currently available OU Natural History courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 21st July 2011
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
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