Mammal

Mammals (class Mammalia (pron.: /mme?li.?/)) 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 such as elephants as well as some primates and cetaceans. 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. Except for the five species of monotremes (which lay eggs), all living mammals give birth to live young. Most mammals, including the six most species-rich orders, belong to the placental group. The three largest orders, in descending order, are Rodentia (mice, rats, porcupines, beavers, capybaras, and other gnawing mammals), Chiroptera (bats), and Soricomorpha (shrews, moles and solenodons). The next three largest orders, depending on the classification scheme used, are the primates, to which the human species belongs, the Cetartiodactyla (including the even-toed hoofed mammals and the whales), and the Carnivora (cats, dogs, weasels, bears, seals, and their relatives).[1] Whi e the classification of mammals at the family level has been relatively stable, different treatments at higher levels—subclass, infraclass, and order—appear in contemporaneous literature, especially for the marsupials. Much recent change has reflected the results of cladistic analysis and molecular genetics. Results from molecular genetics, for example, have led to the adoption of new groups such as the Afrotheria and the abandonment of traditional groups such as the Insectivora. The early synapsid mammalian ancestors were sphenacodont pelycosaurs, a group that also included Dimetrodon. At the end of the Carboniferous period, this group diverged from the sauropsid line that led to today's reptiles and birds. Preceded by many diverse groups of non-mammalian synapsids (sometimes referred to as mammal-like reptiles), the first mammals appeared in the early Mesozoic era. The modern mammalian orders arose in the Paleogene and Neogene periods of the Cenozoic era. In an influential 1988 paper, Timothy Rowe defined Mammalia phylogenetically as the crown group mammals, the clade consisting of the most recent common ancestor of living monotremes (echidnas and platypuses) and therian mammals (marsupials and placentals) and all descendants of that ancestor.[3] A broader phylogenetic definition was provided in a 2004 book by Kielan-Jaworowska, Cifelli, and Luo, who defined Mammalia as the clade originating with the most recent common ancestor, not only of the monotremes and the therians, but also of Sinoconodon, the morganucodonts, and the docodonts.[4] The morganucodonts and the docodonts, included by Rowe in the unranked clade Mammaliaformes, had a widespread distribution in the northern continents and had many of the characteristics that traditionally would have classified them as mammals. In particular, some docodonts were furry. Finally, many paleontologists define Mammalia based on skeletal characteristics rather than ancestral relations; Adelobasileus is included on this basis, though this animal satisfies neither Rowe's definition nor that of Kielan-Jaworowska et al.[5] Mammalia, considered as the crown group, appeared in the Pliensbachian age of the early Jurassic period.[6] In the broader sense given to the term by Kielan-Jaworowska et al., the group arose in the Carnian age at the beginning of the Late Triassic.[7] Mammalia is no older if defined by skeletal characteristics; Adelobasileus, the earliest animal that is included on this basis, is also dated to the Carnian. In any case, the temporal range of the group extends to the present day.