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Mammals

Yee Haa! Look at this beautiful Arabian horse running wild and free! I’ve been going on loads of adventures lately, examining all kinds of big and small creatures. I’ve met some interesting gorillas, monkeys, tigers, and lions, just to name a few. I’ve had such fun learning more about them! I love finding out about nature and all the amazing things it can teach us.  

Recently, I've researched more about a particular group of animals called mammals. While they may not always look similar (can you imagine a tiger with a trunk, or an elephant covered in fur? Ha ha!), they share certain traits that make them part of the same class of animals. 

So what makes an animal a mammal? Well, first of all, mammals give milk to their babies through mammary glands. They are also warm-blooded and have either fur or hair, a neocortex (that’s a particular part of the brain), and a few other distinct traits. You might be thinking that you and your friends and family share these characteristics too – well, that’s because humans are also mammals! 

It is believed that there are over 5,400 species of mammals, which can be found on land, in the air, underground and in the ocean. Dogs, cats, cows, and horses (like this one) are land mammals, bats are flying mammals, moles are mammals that live underground, and whales and seals are marine mammals (believe it or not, whales and dolphins have whisker-like hairs around their chins that help classify them as mammals!).  

Mammals can be divided into three different groups. This is based on how they give birth and look after their babies. Placental mammals give birth to live young and they include humans, elephants, whales, cats, dogs, primates and more. Nearly 94% of all mammal species are placental mammals. Marsupials such as kangaroos and koalas also give birth to live young, but they do so very early. The tiny little embryo then climbs into its mother’s pouch to develop. There are a few mammals that lay eggs, and these are called monotremes. There aren’t many types of monotremes left – only the platypus and four species of echidna. All of these are found in Australia and New Guinea. 

Now I’m feeling inspired to visit some more locations and see what other mammals I can discover! I might head Down Under to try and spot an echidna or two – they sound really fascinating.

See ya later, alligator! 

GLOSSARY
Arabian horse -​ a very common horse breed from Arabia (it’s what most people imagine when they think of a horse!). 
Class -​ a group of things that share similar features. 
Mammary glands -​ the part of the body that allows females to produce milk. 
Species -​ a group of living things that are able to breed with one another. 
Placental -​ an animal that has a placenta, an organ that helps unborn babies grow inside their mother. 
Embryo -​ a very young unborn baby that is still developing. 
Down Under -​ another name for Australia. 

FACTS
1. The largest mammal is the blue whale, which can grow up to 30 metres long and weigh up to 180,000kg. Its tongue alone weighs 2.7 tonnes!
2. The smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat, which weighs just two grams and is the size of a large bumblebee.
3. Bats are the only mammals that can fly.

QUIZ
1. Are mammals warm or cold-blooded?
2. Name three mammals you would find on land.
3. Name two mammals you would find underwater.
4. A cat is a monotreme – true or false?
5. How long is a blue whale?

ACTIVITIES
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