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Studying mammals: Return to the water

Introduction

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The versatility of mammals is a central theme of the ‘Studying mammals’ series of units, but surely no environment has tested that versatility as much as the rivers and oceans of the world. Mammals are essentially a terrestrial group of animals, but three major groups have independently adopted an aquatic way of life. In moving to the water, aquatic mammals have had to survive, feed and reproduce using a set of biological characteristics that evolved in association with life on land. This unit will explore how these characteristics have provided challenges, and opportunities, for mammals that spend some or all of their time in the water.

This is the seventh 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 unit S182_8 Studying mammals: life in the trees 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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