Mammals come in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes, and yet all species have some characteristics in common. These similarities justify the inclusion of all such diverse types within the single taxonomic group (or class) called the Mammalia. This free course, Introducing mammals, offers a starting point for the study of mammals. It will establish their rich diversity, while highlighting the common features that define the group.
Copyright: Adapted from The New Encyclopedia of Mammals, Oxford University Press
Some of the most unusual and versatile of all the mammals are the groups that live, feed and reproduce underwater. In this free course, Studying mammals: Return to the water, 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.
NOTE: The Studying mammals series is gradually being updated and replaced. You can study an improved freestanding version of this course, titled Aquatic mammals, here:
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 free course, Studying mammals: The insect hunters, 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.
In this free course, Surviving the winter, we study one aspect of the fluctuating nature of an organisms environment. We consider how organisms living in a temperate climate, such as that in Britain, are adapted to cope with winter. You will see that there is much diversity of adaptations among organisms, with different species coping with the demands of a fluctuating environment in quite different ways. As cyclic variations are a widespread feature of environments, the range of adaptations to them is an important source of biological diversity.
This introduction to the evolution of mammals considers Darwin's observations on mammals and how he noticed that species fell into natural groups. This free course, School activities: Evolutionary tree of mammals, looks at evidence from fossils and DNA to examine which mammals are most closely related to whales.
Who were our ancestors? How are apes and humans related? And where does the extinct Homo erectus fit into the puzzle? In this free course, Studying mammals: Food for thought, 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.
Monkeys have long fascinated us because of their similarities to the human race. In this free course, Studying mammals: The social climbers, 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.