Mammals

Section Summary

Mammals are vertebrates that possess hair and mammary glands. The mammalian integument includes various secretory glands, including sebaceous glands, eccrine glands, apocrine glands, and mammary glands.

Mammals are synapsids, meaning that they have a single opening in the skull behind the eye. Mammals probably evolved from therapsids in the late Triassic period, as the earliest known mammal fossils are from the early Jurassic period. A key characteristic of synapsids is endothermy, and most mammals are homeothermic.

There are three groups of mammals living today: monotremes, marsupials, and eutherians. Monotremes are unique among mammals as they lay eggs, rather than giving birth to young. Marsupials give birth to very immature young, which typically complete their development in a pouch. Eutherian mammals are sometimes called placental mammals, because all species possess a complex placenta that connects a fetus to the mother, allowing for gas, fluid, and nutrient exchange. All mammals nourish their young with milk, which is derived from modified sweat or sebaceous glands.