Procynosuchus skeleton

Tom Kemp

Teaching:
3rd Year. Final honour School in Biological Sciences:
The origin and evolution of mammals

Synopses of lectures

Lecture 1
What is a mammal? The place of synapsids (= mammal-like reptiles = stem-group mammals) in the great scheme of things. Their origin, and early radiation.

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Lecture 2
The first great leap forwards: the origin of therapsids and the therapsid radiation of dinocephalians, dicynodonts (specialised herbivores); gorgonopsids (specialised carnivores), therocephalians (mixed large and small carnivores); cynodonts (the advanced group).

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Lecture 3
The closest fossil relatives of Mammalia: tritylodontids or tritheledontids or neither? Functional evolution of the mammalian teeth, jaws, jaw muscles and ear ossicles.

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Lecture 4
Evolution of mammalian locomotion from primitive sprawling pelycosaurs to fully parasagittal mammals: vertebral column, hindlimb and forelimb.

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Lecture 5
Evolution of the brain and physiological features of mammals. Hypotheses about the evolution of endothermy. Overview of the mechanism of the evolution of 'mammalness': role of correlated progression and possible species selection.

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Lecture 6
The first two thirds of mammalian history: Mesozoic mammals. Triassic groups. The radiation of the Jurassic and Cretaceous non-tribosphenid groups: docodonts, triconodonts, multituberculates. Why did Mesozoic mammals remain small yet persist for so very long?

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Lecture 7
The origin of the tribosphenic molar tooth. The rise of the modern taxa: placentals and marsupials. The mystery of the monotremes and the theory of a diphyletic origin of the tribosphenic tooth.

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Lecture 8
The Tertiary radiation of placentals in Laurasia. Post-Cretaceous explosion, with the appearance of large bodied mammals, early herbivores and carnivores. The origin and radiation of the modern orders.

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Lecture 9
The story of the South American mammals. The story of the Australian mammals. A biogeographical synopsis to explain the curious distribution of marsupials.

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Lecture 10
The Pleistocene megafaunal extinction: environmental change or human intervention?

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Lecture 11
The impact of the new molecular taxonomy and the radical new ideas it is generating; the Afrotheria hypothesis; whales and hippos; micro and mega bats. New views on placental biogegraphic origins.

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Lecture 12
How to find a fossil mammal-like reptile: adventures in the field!

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Principal Course Text

Kemp, T.S. 2005. The origin and evolution of mammals. OUP.

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