What are mammals?
Mammals are warm blooded creatures separated from the class of reptiles and birds as they possess what we call a ‘Neocortex’ which is a part of the brain that controls:
- Sensory perception
- Generates movement commands
- Spatial reasoning (Theory of mind)
- Conscious thought
- Language (in humans only)
Mammals are also distinguished by having hair, advanced hearing and mammary glands (glands which produce milk) because we produce live offspring which are not fully developed at birth.
Through millions of years of evolution mammals have evolved in to many different categories developing specialists adaptations best suited to their environment; sea, air, in trees, underground and on two feet (Bipedalism). Dolphins and whales with their streamline bodies, magnificent muscular structure and well developed lungs are built for life at sea. Bats are a descendent of shrews developing wings to allow them to survive by catching food in flight and evade predators. Primates have adapted to life in the trees (arboreal) developing long fingers and toes for gripping onto branches and usually possess a tail to help them balance. Other mammals such as the pangolin have adapted to life underground, developing long thick claws for digging and a long sticky tongue to help them catch ants and termites hiding away in their underground bunker (mound). Finally you have humans that have developed to live on two feet allowing us to develop different ways of collecting food, evading predators, creating more complex tools giving us a higher rate of survival. The outstanding result is that we are now Apex predators (nothing eats us) and at the very top of the food chain.
Mammals have important roles in the food webs and food chains of practically every ecosystem as grazers and predators, feed at various levels of food chains:
- Herbivores regulate habitats growth (succession) and increases plant diversity in turn supporting a more diverse range of higher level species (insects, birds, other mammals etc).
- Insectivores regulate insect populations (this could cause a huge ecosystem imbalance when insect populations are left to grow out of control).
- Carnivores regulate herbivore, omnivore and some carnivore populations.
- Omnivores.offer the same ecosystem benefits as herbivores and carnivores, regulating populations, pollinating and dispersing seeds and plants from the species they feed on.
Humans benefit from mammals in many different ways each playing an important role in infrastructure of human civilization:
- Transport for humans and heavy loads (especially in some areas of the world)
- Food source (Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens)
- Scientific research (medicinal & pharmaceutical)
- Services such as guide dogs for the blind
- Aesthetic purposes as pets
This is a continual project so our website will be regularly updated with new information and species, so be patient as some areas of the website may be incomplete.
If you have any pictures or information from or about the island please help us to improve our database by sending your information through to us via our contact page