3rd Year. Final honour School in Biological Sciences:
The origin and evolution of mammals
Synopses of lecturesReturn to main teaching page
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).
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Principal Course Text
Kemp, T.S. 2005. The origin and evolution of mammals. OUP.Return to main teaching page