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Studying mammals: Meat eaters

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The powerful and majestic carnivores are the focus of many television documentaries. In this free course, Studying mammals: Meat eaters, we will delve into the lives of these fearsome hunters and explore their physical adaptations and social behaviour. This is the fifth course in the Studying mammals series.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • describe some of the characteristic features of carnivores
  • outline the dentition of carnivores and its link with diet
  • outline some of the behavioural and sensory characteristics of carnivores, with examples
  • explain, with examples, the roles that vision and smell play in the lives of carnivores
  • explain the variety of ways in which carnivores assemble in groups.

By: The Open University

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


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In this course, we will examine the biology of the impressive meat eaters (e.g. wolves, lions and cheetahs), focusing in part on the biological 'equipment' - slashing and gripping teeth, for example - and on the less obvious behavioural characteristics that have contributed to the undoubted success of these fearsome hunters. Many of the meat eaters live and hunt in groups, which raises intriguing questions about the advantages of group living and the types of social behaviour between individuals that help maintain group coherence.

This is the fifth 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. OpenLearn course S182_8 Studying mammals: life in the trees contains samples from the DVD set. 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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