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Studying mammals: Life in the trees

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David Attenborough looks at life in the trees: examining how species have evolved to cope with arboreal living. In this free course, Studying mammals: Life in the trees, you will learn how lemurs, anteaters, bears and many others have developed different methods to help movement and survival.

By the end of this free course you should be able to:

  • identify the common features shown by tree-dwelling mammals from different groups;
  • show an awareness of the difficulties of classifying primates, especially in relation to the position of the prosimians;
  • give an account of opportunities and challenges encountered by tree-dwelling mammals and of evolved adaptations linked with arboreal life;
  • provide examples of the closeness (and sometimes interdependence) of the relationship between tree dwellers and their habitat;
  • be aware of differences in lifestyle and forms of locomotion amongst a wide range of prosimians;
  • give examples of adaptive radiation amongst the Madagascan lemurs;
  • describe differences in lifestyle (e.g. feeding habits) amongst lemurs, including features linked with their arboreal life.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 10 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 3rd September 2013
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Natural History
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Studying mammals: Life in the trees


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This unit will introduce you to the wide-ranging types of mammals that live in the trees. You will learn how they thrive in this demanding environment, with the help of a range of intriguing adaptations related to their unusual life-styles.

This is the eighth in a series of units about studying mammals. To get the most from these units, 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. This unit contains samples from the DVD set. 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 subject area [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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