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The term mammal encompasses a huge variety of animals, including humans. But what makes a mammal a mammal? This free course, Studying mammals: A winning design, explores some of the features, such as reproduction, lactation and thermoregulation methods, that mammals have in common. It is the first in a series of ten Studying mammals courses.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- explain the distinctive biological features of monotremes
- distinguish contrasting modes of reproduction in monotremes, marsupials and placental mammals
- describe the cellular basis of lactation and explain the benefits of an early diet of milk
- explain the significance of mammalian metabolic rate
- explain how and why the thermogenic response differs among species.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Overview
- 2 How should we think of monotremes?
- 3 Reproduction in marsupials
- 4 Milk production (lactation)
- 5 Metabolism and body temperature
- 6 Thermoregulation and mammalian fur
- 7 What's special about placental mammals?
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Studying mammals: A winning design
Mammals come in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes and yet all of the 4700 or so species have some characteristics in common. Indeed, it's the existence of these common features that justifies the inclusion of all such diverse types within the single taxonomic group (or class) called the Mammalia.
This is the first 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. 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
This free course includes adapted extracts 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, 16th March 2016
Last updated on: Wednesday, 16th March 2016
- 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 and our FAQs section.
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