The Biology of Mammals: comparative and evolutionary perspectives - SACO5820

Looking for a different module?

Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 6 15 (7.5) Nicholas Newton-Fisher checkmark-circle


The biology of mammals, and our relationships with them—both direct and evolutionary—are often what sparks our interest in studying biology, ecology or conservation. Moreover, it is inescapable that humans are also mammals, and thus their biology is our biology. In this module, we explore the diversity of mammals with a particular emphasis on non-human primates, to better understand both this fascinating array of species, as well as ourselves. Taking an evolutionary and ecological perspective throughout, we explore mammalian anatomy and physiology, draw contrasts with other vertebrate groups, and explore the diversity of mammalian social systems. We also cover the process of natural selection, the nature of species, and how we classify these to make sense of biological diversity. This module engages students with primary literature, and with extensive opportunities for hands-on 'experiential' learning using our extensive skeletal collection in practical (lab) classes. It provides a fundamental comparative understanding of what it means to be a mammal, allowing students to place their other studies within this context, as well as establishing a foundation for further specialisation in mammalian (and human) biology.


Contact hours

Private Study: 119
Contact Hours: 31
Total: 150


Compulsory to the following courses:
• BSc Anthropology (Biological pathway)

Optional to the following courses:
• BSc Biology
• BSc Human Biology and Behaviour
• BSc Wildlife Conservation

Also available as an elective module

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Practical Assessment, 50 minutes (50%)
Examination, 2 hours (50%)

Reassessment methods
Like for like

*Exams will be online*

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.

The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate knowledge of the characteristic adaptations, together with the diversity and unifying themes in form and function, of species belonging to the class Mammalia
2 Understand how evolutionary theory explains the diversity of animals and their adaptations with particular reference to the class Mammalia; understand evolution as both history and process
3 Critically evaluate the link between morphology and both phylogeny and ecology
4 Appreciate the value of a broad comparative approach in understanding diversities and commonalities between organisms and how this understanding in mammals provides a foundation for studies of human biology.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.