The Mammals portal

A mammal (from Latin mamma 'breast') is a vertebrate animal of the class Mammalia (/məˈmli.ə/). Mammals are characterized by the presence of milk-producing mammary glands for feeding their young, a neocortex region of the brain, fur or hair, and three middle ear bones. These characteristics distinguish them from reptiles and birds, from which their ancestors diverged in the Carboniferous Period over 300 million years ago. Around 6,400 extant species of mammals have been described and divided into 29 orders.

The largest orders of mammals, by number of species, are the rodents, bats, and Eulipotyphla (including hedgehogs, moles and shrews). The next three are the primates (including humans, monkeys and lemurs), the even-toed ungulates (including pigs, camels, and whales), and the Carnivora (including cats, dogs, and seals).

Mammals are the only living members of Synapsida; this clade, together with Sauropsida (reptiles and birds), constitutes the larger Amniota clade. Early synapsids are referred to as "pelycosaurs". The more advanced therapsids became dominant during the Middle Permian. Mammals originated from cynodonts, an advanced group of therapsids, during the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic. Mammals achieved their modern diversity in the Paleogene and Neogene periods of the Cenozoic era, after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, and have been the dominant terrestrial animal group from 66 million years ago to the present.

The basic mammalian body type is quadruped, and most mammals use their four extremities for terrestrial locomotion; but in some, the extremities are adapted for life at sea, in the air, in trees, underground, or on two legs. Mammals range in size from the 30–40 mm (1.2–1.6 in) bumblebee bat to the 30 m (98 ft) blue whale—possibly the largest animal to have ever lived. Maximum lifespan varies from two years for the shrew to 211 years for the bowhead whale. All modern mammals give birth to live young, except the five species of monotremes, which are egg-laying mammals. The most species-rich group of mammals, the infraclass called placentals, have a placenta, which enables the feeding of the fetus during gestation.

Most mammals are intelligent, with some possessing large brains, self-awareness, and tool use. Mammals can communicate and vocalize in several ways, including the production of ultrasound, scent-marking, alarm signals, singing, echolocation; and, in the case of humans, complex language. Mammals can organize themselves into fission–fusion societies, harems, and hierarchies—but can also be solitary and territorial. Most mammals are polygynous, but some can be monogamous or polyandrous.

Domestication of many types of mammals by humans played a major role in the Neolithic Revolution, and resulted in farming replacing hunting and gathering as the primary source of food for humans. This led to a major restructuring of human societies from nomadic to sedentary, with more co-operation among larger and larger groups, and ultimately the development of the first civilizations. Domesticated mammals provided, and continue to provide, power for transport and agriculture, as well as food (meat and dairy products), fur, and leather. Mammals are also hunted and raced for sport, kept as pets and working animals of various types, and are used as model organisms in science. Mammals have been depicted in art since Paleolithic times, and appear in literature, film, mythology, and religion. Decline in numbers and extinction of many mammals is primarily driven by human poaching and habitat destruction, primarily deforestation. (Full article...)

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Pygmy Hippopotamus
The Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) is a large mammal native to the forests and swamps of western Africa (the scientific species classification means "of Liberia", as this is where the vast majority lives). The pygmy hippo is reclusive and nocturnal. It is one of only two extant species in the hippopotamidae family, the other being its much larger cousin the common hippopotamus. The pygmy hippopotamus displays many terrestrial adaptations, but like its larger cousin, it is semi-aquatic and relies on proximity to water to keep its skin moisturized and its body temperature cool. Behaviors such as mating and birth may occur in water or on land. The pygmy hippo is herbivorous, feeding on whatever ferns, broad-leaved plants, grasses and fruits it finds in the forests. A rare nocturnal forest creature, the pygmy hippopotamus is a difficult animal to study in the wild; it also lives primarily in countries with a great degree of civil strife. Pygmy hippos lead mostly solitary lives; they are sometimes seen in pairs or threesomes, but never large pods like the common hippopotamus. Unlike the common hippopotamus, they are not known to be territorial.

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Scientific classification

KingdomAnimalia   PhylumChordata   SubphylumVertebrata   SuperclassTetrapoda   (unranked)Amniota   ClassMammalia



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