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Studying mammals: The insect hunters
From pygmy shrews to armadillos, a wide range of mammals survive on a diet made up...
From pygmy shrews to armadillos, a wide range of mammals survive on a diet made up largely of insects. Many of these have fascinating adaptations suited to catching or rooting out their prey. In this unit you will learn about these adaptations, along with survival strategies for when food is scarce. This is the second unit in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
- describe the lifestyle of a variety of insect eaters, from four orders;
- give examples of adaptations linked to feeding in insect eaters;
- explain the limited extent to which insectivores can be regarded as ‘primitive’;
- characterise typical adult mammalian dentition and understand dental formulae;
- recognise teleology and write down accounts of evolution that do not assume purpose or direction;
- describe the relationship between surface area, volume, body mass and BMR;
- identify strategies that insect eaters use to cope with cold and food shortage;
- explain the events of bat and hedgehog hibernation and the evidence for the control of this process.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Meeting the insect eaters
- 2 How insect eaters obtain their food
- 3 Adaptations linked to feeding in insect eaters
- 4 Thinking about adaptation
- 5 Temperature regulation and the consequence of size
- 6 Strategies for coping with cold and food shortage
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Studying mammals: The insect hunters
Sixty-five million years ago, animal and plant life were very different from nowadays, but there were rat-sized placental mammals living successfully on the ground. They were insect eaters, i.e. insectivores, feeding on the vast numbers of insects and other invertebrates living in soil, leaf litter and low-lying vegetation. Insectivore means ‘insect eater’, and in this unit we will explore the world of insect-eating mammals, classified together on the basis of a reasonably close evolutionary relationship.
This is the second 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 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: Wednesday, 8th June 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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