Field guide training: Mammals – Part 4

Each future field guide must have knowledge about the mammals of Southern Africa. In the following blog post you can learn more about the classification of mammals on the basis of taxonomic hierarchies.


The taxonomic classification, i.e. the arrangement of different animal groups in a pedigree, makes it possible to show relationships between animal groups and to assign characteristics.

The taxonomic pedigree of mammals is based on their type of reproduction. Mammals can be divided into two subclasses, one of which is the Prototheria subclass, which differs from all other mammals in that it does not give birth to living offspring but lays eggs. One of the few recent (currently living) representatives, for example, is the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) which is native to Australia.


The second subclass is Theria, which in turn can be divided into the two infraclasses of marsupials (Metatheria) and placental animals (Eutheria). With a total of 20 orders, placentas form the largest group within mammals. They incorporate most known mammal-orders, like primates, rodents, carnivora, bats, insectivores and many others. Characteristics of this group are the presence of a uterus (placenta) and viviparous reproduction. The marsupials, on the other hand, have a kind of outer skin pocket in which the young, which are born in a very early embryonic stage, grow up. The marsupials, for example, include the world-famous kangaroos that are native to Australia and New Guinea.

When taking part in a field guide course in Africa, you can learn more about mammals and other classes of animals.

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