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What are mammals?


Mammals are a class of vertebrates. They are called vertebrates because they have a backbone.

Mammals are also warm-blooded animals, which means they are able to keep their body temperatures stable whether it is cold or hot outside. Mammals live both on land and in water. There are about 4,500 species of mammals. They live in all parts of the world.

What makes a mammal different from other animals?
Most mammals have fur or hair that covers their bodies. The heart of a mammal always has four chambers. Mammals give birth to live young (except for the platypus and the spiny anteater, which lay eggs). The female has mammary glands, which secrete milk to feed the young after birth.

Some mammals eat meat (carnivores) while others, like shrews and bats, eat insects (insectivores). Herbivores, like deer and rabbits, feed on vegetation. Omnivores, like bears and rats, will eat both plants and meat.

Some examples of mammals are cats, dogs, bears, foxes, raccoons, and skunks.  Rodents (rats, mice, beavers and squirrels) and hoofed animals (horses, deer, cattle) are mammals, too. Other mammals include primates (monkey, lemur, humans), and others such as the bat and elephant. Aquatic mammals include the seal,  walrus, whale, and dolphin.

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This page last reviewed February 6, 2003

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