Wildlife: Mammals

Mammals are some of the most beautiful, amazing animals on our planet Earth. They come in all shapes and sizes – from armadillos to whales!  Mammals share very distinct similarities that might surprise you.

Mammals belong to the animal class Mammalia. They share specific  characteristics that differ from other animals. For one, nearly all mammals are warm-blooded and give birth to live young, rather than laying eggs.

Female mammals are the only creatures on our planet that make milk  for their young. The milk is produced through the mother’s mammary glands, which are located on the chest and upper groin area. The milk is rich in vitamins and special nutrients crucial to a baby animal’s needs.

Unlike our cold-blooded reptile friends such as snakes, who require morning sunlight to warm up, mammals are virtually ready to start the day instantly. Their bodies make enough heat to hold a consistently warm temperature.

While most mammals live on land, bats (yes, bats are mammals) have taken to the skies, and various sea cows and whales live in the oceans. Another characteristic found in most mammals is in their specialized teeth. The teeth are replaced just once during an individual’s life, which is known as diphyodonty. The first teeth of a mammal are referred to as milk teeth, much like humans.

Scientists believe that large marine mammals like whales and dolphins have brains much like those of humans. They are able to communicate, follow instructions, and figure things out.

Mammals have larger, more well-developed brains than other animals. Most mammals have good memories and are able to learn new things. This means that mammals can learn to survive in new situations and in new places if they need to. This is called adapting.

Polar Bears have hair (fur) on the bottom pads of their feet to keep them warm, and to help them grip icy surfaces. The hollow, thick hairs of the polar bear’s waterproof fur coat hold in the body heat and are buoyant, which helps the animal float easier in water. Most mammals have a fur coat with two distinct layers; an undercoat of shorter dense hair and an outer coat of longer stiffer hairs.  Mammals are the only animals with hair or fur that protects it agains the elements – heat, cold, wind, rain, bacteria, and even infection.

It is believed that approximately 5,000 species of mammals exist within approximately 25 different classifications or classes. Scientists disagree with these exact numbers and on how some orders relate to others.