Mammal Diversity and Evolution (BIOL 345/445)

This four credit-hour course focuses on the anatomical and taxonomic diversity of mammals in an evolutionary context. The emphasis is on living (extant) mammals, but extinct mammals are also discussed. Weekly meetings include two student-led seminars (Tu/Th from 4:00-5:15 PM) and one lab (Wednesday from 3:20-6:00 pm). Some labs take place at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the course includes one weekend field trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The course satisfies a laboratory requirement for the biology major and is an approved elective for the evolutionary biology major. BIOL 214 (Genes, Evolution and Ecology) is a prerequisite. Upon completion of this course, a student should be able to:

  • describe the key anatomical and physiological features of mammals
  • name and describe all orders and most families of living mammals
  • identify an unknown mammal skull to order and family
  • explain how to create and interpret a phylogenetic tree
  • discuss major historical patterns in mammal diversity and biogeography as revealed by the fossil record
  • read and critique a scientific paper dealing with mammal evolution

A detailed course syllabus is available here.

Online resources developed for this course:

Other useful mammal web sites (suggestions welcome)

  • Animal Diversity Web (U. of Michigan): lots of information on specific taxa plus general information on teeth, bones, etc.
  • Australian Mammal Skulls (Museum Victoria): great photos of mammal skulls, mostly marsupials
  • Digimorph (U. of Texas): NSF-supported site with digitally rendered CT images of many animals, including mammals
  • ESkeletons (U. of Texas): NSF-supported site with photos of primate postcranial bones and some skulls
  • Extreme Mammals (American Museum of Natural History): an excellent exhibit highlighting mammalian diversity
  • Fauna of Australia: Mammals (Australian Government): PDFs of Australian mammal families with nice images and references
  • Mammal Crania (Dokkyo U.): photo archive with lots of mammal crania, many of very high resolution
  • Mammal Image Library (American Society of Mammalogists): many excellent mammal photos
  • Mammal Species of the World (Bucknell): taxonomy of all described species of extant mammals
  • Mammalian Lexicon (Michigan State): an interesting list of the meanings of family-level and higher mammal names (beware the chartreuse background!)
  • Mammalian Species (American Society of Mammalogists): detailed accounts (PDFs) of more than 800 species of mammals; newer accounts require institutional access
  • Ohio Mammals (Ohio DNR): nice descriptions of Ohio’s more common mammals
  • Tooth Morphology: good pictures and explanations of teeth from the Animal Diversity Web (see above)
  • Web of Science: bibliographic service for general science; mostly recent articles (requires institutional access)
  • Will’s Skull Page (individual): lots of good mammal skull photos (many of British mammals) and descriptions
San Diego ZooAdelaide ZooCleveland Metroparks ZooHippoSan Diego ZooArmadillo SkullMoschus skull
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