Biology 374: Mammology

Wofford College

Department of Biology

429 North Church Street

Spartanburg, South Carolina 29303

"a United Methodist institution"

An Introduction to the Study of Mammals

Fall 2003


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Elephants  Insectivores   Marsupials   Xenarthrans


            Hey, I’m updating this on Monday, 15 September 2003, to reflect (1) how far behind I am and (2) who is reporting about what on which day.



I am delighted that you are taking this course because I really wanted the chance to teach mammalogy again at Wofford—and because I know you can help me learn more about the subject.  Throughout the semester my classroom strategy, from which I shall often deviate, will be to lecture at each class meeting about one Order of mammals.  After a general introduction to the Order of the day, I shall talk about a selection of representative, living species.  Because of logistical difficulties, our course will not have a formal laboratory, but on some days we may use a class period as if it were a lab.


READINGS:  Mammalogy books are too expensive, so I have written my own.  It is not the best text available, but with the help of last fall’s students I have improved it.  Furthermore, my text is unarguably the cheapest, and you should get your free copy of the CD during our first class meeting.  All formal reading assignments are from this book.  The CD was prepared in IBM format, and the book’s twenty chapters are written in Microsoft Word.  Because I have included many pictures in the text, some chapters may be a bit slow to load.  Just click and wait….

            Whenever you have time and inclination, you should also read other works about mammals.  Our library has quite a few good books.  I have other books in my office, and I’ll be delighted to lend them out.  I also have multi-year runs of The Journal of Mammalogy and The Journal of Mammalian Evolution.  Four works particularly worthy of your examination are (1) Nowak’s 6th edition of Walker’s Mammals of the World, (2) Mammalogy by Vaughan et al., (3) Macdonald’s Encyclopedia of Mammals, and (4) Wilson and Ruff’s The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals.



1.      We will have one test and a comprehensive final examination.

2.      You will be required to complete an informal, off-campus exercise—and to give me a written report (preferably about one typed page) on this exercise not later than the day of our final examination.  Here are some possibilities.  On some afternoon a bunch of us could go together to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia.  You could visit (alone or in groups) another zoo and bring me back a list of exhibited mammals.  You could conduct a mark-recapture trapping study on Camp Croft.  You could do a census of mammalian roadkills in some part of South Carolina (preparation for curry over rice is encouraged but optional).  Many other options exist.  You will not receive a letter-grade for this work.  It is what we might call a do-it-and-check-it-off requirement.

3.      You will select one article from The Journal of Mammalogy, prepare a one-page written summary (of why the article was worth your time), and deliver a 5-minute article synopsis at the end of a class.  This is another check-off requirement.

4.      You will be required to form a team of 2-3 students and rework one chapter in my textbook.  (For this you will receive a letter grade.  And, yes, I’ll give you written credit for your efforts in my next CD edition.)  Here are some of the things I want you to do.  (1) Print out a copy of my chapter.  Suggest improvements in spelling, grammar, and writing style.  (2) If you like, suggest exclusion of some example-species and addition of others.  (3) If you can, find non-copyrighted photographs of example species.  Alternatively, you can visit a zoo and take a few digital shots—and count this as your off-campus exercise.  (4) Improve sketches and diagrams (if any), and present your improvements in machine-readable form.  (5) Present a brief, annotated list of web sites relevant to the chapter topic.  (6) Prepare a chapter appendix that gives English meanings for all (or as many as possible) scientific names occurring in the chapter.  (7) Make an appointment (before Thanksgiving Holidays) for your team to discuss with me the progress you are making on this project.  I can help with all these things.  Here’s the basic idea.  You folks are re-writing one of my chapters.  Your final report is due not later than the day of our final examination.




Tuesday, 2 September.  What is the course about?  Before or shortly after this class you should scan my (rather personal) Preface to the text.


Thursday, 4 September.  What is the scientific system of naming mammals?  This part of the lecture will be a boring but necessary vocabulary lesson.  For most of you, it will also be review.

What do scientists mean by the term evolution?  Since most of you are biology majors, this too should be mostly review.  Please read the chapter on Classification and Evolution.


Tuesday, 9 September.  What are some salient biological and ecological characteristics of mammals?  Although you should definitely read my chapter on Thermoregulation and Class Characteristics, my plan for class is to approach the subject from a very different point of view.


Thursday, 11 September.  What were early mammals like?  How did they fit into the Mesozoic world?  Read the chapter on Ancient Mammals.  Note: I would like for you to tell me at this meeting what article you will review from The Journal of Mammalogy.


(At this point we begin our Order-by-Order review of mammals.)


Tuesday, 16 September. I’ve gotten very far behind, heading off on my own minor intellectual (?) “rabbit runs.”  For this day I’ll try to revise my last-Thursday lecture on thermoreg; I’ll write the stuff down & try to make Xerox copies.  I’ll try to cover important thermoreg stuff that I’ve thus far neglected, and I’ll move toward general characteristics of mammals.  I’d also like to talk about Mesozoic mammals & consider the early days of the Mammalia’s organization.  I may or may not finish this latter topic.  Ideally, I’d like to begin a discussion of monotremes and marsupials on Thursday, but my guess is that I won’t make it.  So you’ll need to lag the reading assignments accordingly.  Chapter 03, Monotremes and Marsupials.  What are these mammals like?  How do biologists explain their geographical distribution?


Thursday, 18 September.  Reports:  Krystal Badendick will talk about the rust-colored seals of Norway.  (Does that sound like the title of a best-selling children’s novel?) Chapter 04, The Insectivora.  These are some of the less-known placental mammals, and perhaps they are among the most primitive.  In the future this group will be split into several Orders.  What general biological lessons can we learn from the study of this group?


Tuesday, 23 September.  Erin Strong will talk about computer recognition of cheetahs.  Ann Nichols will tell us about the migration of Indiana bats. Chapter 05, The Xenarthra.  These are sloths, armadillos, and anteaters, the particularly weird mammals of South America. (I also include an aside on pangolins, which are Old World mammals.)  Think in general terms about how mammals can meet their energetic needs by eating weird/difficult foods.


Thursday, 25 September. Chapter 06, Elephants.  This Order has few living representatives, but its fossil history is fascinating, and the extant species offer difficult challenges to conservation biologists.  What things are very special about large mammals?  How can a study of elephant-human interactions help us learn to deal with broader conservation issues?


Tuesday, 30 September. Angela Pope will address the question of whether depredation on neonate mammals leads to early births.  (There has been some controversy on this subject.)   Chapter 07, The Artiodactyla.  These are the hoofed animals with an even number of weight-supporting toes on each foot.  Included are pigs, hippos, peccaries, camels, mouse deer, musk deer, regular old deer, pronghorns, and bovids (sheep, goats, cows, antelopes…).  This is one of my favorite mammalian Orders—in part because I like to think about co-evolution of organisms.  By this time I’d like to learn what your off-campus project might be.


Thursday, 2 October.  John Hollifield will consider Weddell seals.  Chapter 07, The Artiodactyla (again).


Tuesday, 7 October.  Shane Fast will talk about prey selection in mountain lions.  Stacie Truitt will discuss (and imitate???) vocalizations of sea otters. Catch-up day.


Thursday, 9 October.  All-Period Test.


Tuesday, 14 October.  Danni Moss will consider variation in duration of pregnancy of fur seals.  Chapter 08, The Perissodactyla.  This group includes horses (plus asses and zebras), tapirs, and rhinos.  Most mammalogists make mental comparisons between artiodactyls and perissodactyls.


Thursday, 16 October.  Blake Cleveland will how badgers store up Richardson’s ground squirrels.  (I meant to read that article and never did.)  Chapter 09, The Carnivora.  This Order includes seals, etc. (the Pinnipedia) as well as lions, and tigers, and bears….  Here’s a carnivore-related question for you: These animals find it very easy to learn to kill—so how do some species also learn to live together in groups?  (The African hunting dog provides the most extreme example of one answer.)


Tuesday, 21 October.  Jeff Taylor will consider genetic diversity in Pacific seal populations.  Sarah Leatherman will discuss a related topic of extreme spatial genetic heterogeneity in white-tailed deer.  Chapter 09, The Carnivora (continuation).


Thursday, 23 October.  Steve Prochak will talk a little about marine mammals.  Brittany Ray will discuss response to endotoxins in California ground squirrels.  Chapter 10, The Primates.


Tuesday, 28 Danielle Makupson—well, I didn’t leave enough room on the sign-up list, and she wrote down, “Influence of father and pregnancy on maternal….”  Perhaps we’ll let the topic surprise us.  Amy Jordan will talk to us about comparative brain growth in a couple of small cetaceans.  October.  Chapter 10, The Primates (continuation).


Thursday 30 October.  Elizabeth Saine will meditate with us on the arboreal marsupials of S.E. Australia.  Amy Yanke will lead us into the snows of Asia to discuss “Reproductive Parameters of Wild Female Amur Tigers.”  Chapter 11, The Bats. (Is this a good Halloween topic or what?)


Tuesday, 4 November.  Casey Skinner will discuss (and demonstrate?) diurnal vocal patterns of the black howler monkey.  Chapter 12, The Rodents.  (Remember, Friday, 8 November, is the last day for dropping classes with a grade of WP.)


Thursday, 6 November.  Chapter 13, Others (taxa of focus still not selected).


Tuesday, 11 November.  Chapter 13.  Others (taxa of focus still not selected).


(Last year I planned to begin discussing general topics in conservation biology at this point.  However, we were pretty far behind, and I had to continue a review of mammalian Orders.  Perhaps this semester will be different.  At any rate, I shall list some tentative topics below.)


Thursday, 13 November.  Chapter 17, Counting animals.  In this chapter I discuss some general considerations connected with population census and estimation.


Tuesday, 18 November.  James Duncan will talk about sex ratios of pigtail macaques.  Chapter 18, Wildlife demography.  I don’t much like this chapter, but I feel under some obligation to discuss a few principles of population biology.


Thursday, 20 November.  I’ll try to reserve this class for discussion of chapter-rewrite projects.


Tuesday, 25 November.  Chapter 19, Wildlife modeling.


Tuesday, 2 December.  Holly Pierce will consider long-nosed bats.  Chapter 20, Chaos.  What should ecologists know about this topic?


Thursday, 4 December.  I’ll hold this class open for topics of opportunity.