Mammals are any vertebrates within the class Mammalia , a clade of endothermic amniotes distinguished from reptiles and birds by the possession of a neocortex , hair, three middle ear bones and mammary glands. The sister group of Mammals may be the extinct Haldanodon. The Mammals represent the only living Synapsida, which together with the Sauropsida form the Amniota clade. The Mammals consist of the Australosphenida including monotrema and the theria.
Mammals are any vertebrates within the class Mammalia (// from Latin mamma "breast"), a clade of endothermic amniotes distinguished from reptiles and birds by the possession of a neocortex (a region of the brain), hair, three middle ear bones and mammary glands. The sister group of Mammals may be the extinct Haldanodon. The Mammals represent the only living Synapsida, which together with the Sauropsida form the Amniota clade. The Mammals consist of the Australosphenida including monotrema and the theria.
Mammals include the largest animals on the planet, the great whales, as well as some of the most intelligent, such as elephants, primates and cetaceans. The basic body type is a terrestrial quadruped, but some mammals are adapted for life at sea, in the air, in trees, underground or on two legs. The largest group of mammals, the placentals, have a placenta, which enables the feeding of the fetus during gestation. Mammals range in size from the 30–40 mm (1.2–1.6 in) bumblebee bat to the 30-meter (98 ft) blue whale. With the exception of the five species of monotreme (egg-laying mammals), all modern 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 number of species are Rodentia: mice, rats, porcupines, beavers, capybaras and other gnawing mammals; Chiroptera: bats; and Soricomorpha: shrews, moles and solenodons. The next three biggest orders, depending on the biological classification scheme used, are the Primates including the great apes and monkeys; the Cetartiodactyla including whales and even-toed ungulates; and the Carnivora which includes cats, dogs, weasels, bears and seals.
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, secreted from the mammary glands. According to Mammal Species of the World, 5,416 species were known in 2006. These were grouped in 1,229 genera, 153 families and 29 orders. In 2008 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) completed a five-year, 1,700-scientist Global Mammal Assessment for its IUCN Red List, which counted 5,488 species. In some classifications, extant mammals are divided into two subclasses: the Prototheria, that is, the order Monotremata; and the Theria, or the infraclasses Metatheria and Eutheria. The marsupials constitute the crown group of the Metatheria, and include all living metatherians as well as many extinct ones; the placentals are the crown group of the Eutheria. While mammal classification at the family level has been relatively stable, several contending classifications regarding the higher levels—subclass, infraclass and order, especially of the marsupials—appear in contemporaneous literature. Much of the changes reflect the advances of cladistic analysis and molecular genetics. Findings from molecular genetics, for example, have prompted adopting new groups, such as the Afrotheria, and abandoning traditional groups, such as the Insectivora.
The early synapsid mammalian ancestors were sphenacodont pelycosaurs, a group that produced the non-mammalian Dimetrodon. At the end of the Carboniferous period, this group diverged from the sauropsid line that led to today's reptiles and birds. The line following the stem group Sphenacodontia split-off several diverse groups of non-mammalian synapsids—sometimes referred to as mammal-like reptiles—before giving rise to the proto-mammals (Therapsida) in the early Mesozoic era. The modern mammalian orders arose in the Paleogene and Neogene periods of the Cenozoic era, after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, and have been among the dominant terrestrial animal groups from 66 million years ago to the present.
In human culture, domesticated mammals played a major role in the Neolithic revolution, causing farming to replace hunting and gathering, and leading to a major restructuring of human societies with the first civilizations. They provided, and continue to provide, power for transport and agriculture, as well as various commodities such as meat, dairy products, wool, and leather. Mammals are hunted or raced for sport, and are used as model organisms in science. Mammals have been depicted in art since Palaeolithic times, and appear in literature, film, mythology, and religion.
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