Mammals

Mammals (class Mammalia (pron.: /məˈmli.ə/)) are a clade of warm-blooded amniotes. Among the features that distinguish them from the other amniotes, the reptiles and the birds, are hair, three middle ear bones, mammary glands in females, and a neocortex (a region of the brain). The mammalian brain regulates body temperature and the circulatory system, including the four-chambered heart. The mammals include the largest animals on the planet, the rorqual whales, as well as the most intelligent, the apes. The basic body type is a four-legged land-borne animal, but some mammals are adapted for life at sea, in the air, in the trees, or on two legs. The largest group of mammals, the placentals, have a placenta which feeds the offspring during pregnancy. Mammals range in size from the 30–40 millimeter (1- to 1.5-inch) bumblebee bat to the 33-meter (108-foot) blue whale.

The word “mammal” is modern, from the scientific name Mammalia coined by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, derived from the Latin mamma (“teat, pap”). All female mammals nurse their young with milk, which is secreted from special glands, the mammary glands. According to Mammal Species of the World, 5,702 species were known in 2005. These were grouped in 1,229 genera, 153 families and 29 orders.[1] In 2008 the IUCN completed a five-year, 17,000-scientist Global Mammal Assessment for its IUCN Red List, which counted 5,488 accepted species at the end of that period.[2] In some classifications, the mammals are divided into two subclasses (not counting fossils): the Prototheria (order of Monotremata) and the Theria, the latter composed of the infraclasses Metatheria and Eutheria. The marsupials comprise the crown group of the Metatheria and therefore include all living metatherians as well as many extinct ones; the placentals likewise constitute the crown group of the Eutheria.

 

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