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Studying Darwin
Studying Darwin

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3 Studying mammals

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The term mammal encompasses a huge variety of animals, including humans. But what makes a mammal a mammal? This course 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 10 ‘Studying mammals’ courses.

The insect hunters

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 course you will learn about these adaptations, along with survival strategies for when food is scarce. This is the second course in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.


Ever wondered why rats, mice and squirrels seem to reproduce at such an alarming rate? Rodents are among the most successful of all the mammal groups. In this course you will learn more about some of the evolutionary features that make these creatures so plentiful. This is the third course in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.

Plant predators

From the mouse-deer to the elephant, plant eaters come in all shapes and sizes. But how do they manage to flourish on a salad diet? In this course we will examine the special features that allow them to extract their nutrients from leaves, and see how some plants protect themselves from these predators. This is the fourth course in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.

The meat eaters

The powerful and majestic carnivores are the focus of many television documentaries. In this course 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.

The opportunists

Many mammals are food specialists, with complex adaptations that gear them toward a particular food source. So how do the omnivores survive and prosper without these fancy evolutionary features? This course examines the physiology, diet and strategies of some of these opportunistic feeders. It is the sixth course in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.

Return to the water

Some of the most unusual and versatile of all the mammals are the groups that live, feed and reproduce underwater. In this course we will see how these formerly land-based mammals adapted to a return to the water, discussing such challenges as breathing, movement and communication. This is the seventh course in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.

Life in the trees

David Attenborough looks at ‘life in the trees’: examining how species have evolved to cope with arboreal living. You will learn how lemurs, anteaters, bears and many others have developed different methods to help movement and survival.

The social climbers

Monkeys have long fascinated us because of their similarities to the human race. In this course you will find out about some of the characteristics that make them so like us: their physiology, complex social interactions, large brains and intelligence. This is the ninth course in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.

Food for thought

Who were our ancestors? How are apes and humans related? And where does the extinct Homo erectus fit into the puzzle? In this course we will examine culture, tool use and social structure in both apes and humans to gain an understanding of where we come from and why we behave as we do. This is the tenth course in the ‘Studying mammals’ series.