The world of science is incredibly broad and encompasses everything in the universe no matter how big, small, old, or new. Then each branch of science also has many branches as well, biology can be divided many times into smaller and smaller niches, each with plenty to learn, research, and explore. Biology is the study of living things, from bacteria to humans and anything in between. Mammalogy is the study of mammals, those are the animals that are typically born live, have larger brains, grow hair or fur, and produce milk to breastfeed their young. Some of the smallest mammals include the rodents like mice, rats, and tiny voles, while the largest are elephants, giraffes, and of course, whales are mammals too. Biologists that specialize in the study of mammals are usually called mammalogists.
Most mammals have the ability to learn things rather than just react from instincts, that’s not to say that mammals don’t have instincts, you don’t have to teach a cat to catch mice and birds, they’re hard-wired to do it. On the other hand, even small mice can be taught to go through a maze and find food or learn which button to push to get food in scientific experiments. When it comes to mammals, the larger the brain the easier it is to teach an animal new things but they all learn faster and better than other animals like lizards, birds, or frogs.
Mammals also are one of the few types of animals that have various teeth for eating different kinds of foods. When you look into the mouth of a human, you’ll find teeth that are for cutting through an apple, tearing into meat, or grinding nuts and grains, we can eat anything. Each different species of mammal will exhibit a different combination of teeth and you can look at their diet to see why.
Mammals are also the only group of animals that have babies that are born nearly fully developed with heart, lungs, circulatory system, brain, and many other features. Most lower animals lay eggs that then need to be hatched outside of the body instead. Animals like birds, reptiles, and amphibians would be a good example of egg layers.
Biology is the study of living things, both plants, and animals, but all living things have a lot in common from single-celled plants and animals all the way to the largest trees or whales, we’re all made from cells with mitochondria, and lots of other similarities. So anyone wanting to be a mammalogist will also be well studied in biology and all of its many branches including virology, bacteriology, microbiology, and the hundreds of other specialties.
Even though the study of mammals is far smaller than the broader biology field, there are still thousands of smaller and more diverse branches of mammalogy as well. Some of them will include the history of mammals on earth or taxonomy. Another subdivision is the study of anatomy or physiology which includes the inner workings of the bodies of mammals like their hearts, lungs, kidneys, stomachs, brains and more. An interesting point to note is that all mammals have hearts, lungs, brains and many other organs in common. They come in many different sizes and shapes, but they’re all there. Plus, knowing what chemicals, drugs, or other outside influences cause harm to one species of mammal can help discover similar problems in other mammals.
There are thousands of jobs for well-trained mammalogists in a very wide range of fields. Starting with colleges, universities, and even private high schools, there is a constant demand for good teachers and professors to train the next generation of researchers, scientists, and technicians. The universities themselves are often involved in research projects paid for by industry, government, or private funds as well.
Getting outside of academics, there are also many occupations that require the education of a biologist or mammalogist too. The pharmaceutical industry employs many thousands of scientists that develop and study the effects of various drugs and treatment programs starting on mammals and then progressing to humans. Every type of medication that reaches the final approval of the FDA will have started with scientists working with small animals and progressing up to rodents to test theories on how to stop cancer, increase memory, alter behavior, or prevent disease.
These fields are full of mammalogist, biologists, physiologists, and even physicists at times. There is a constant flow of new medicines to treat or prevent new and old diseases in humans. Plus the study to find the causes of many of the afflictions of man that help to reduce our lifetimes.
The problem with pesticides is that they aren’t specific in only killing only one species of animal or plant. If they were, there wouldn’t be any reason to not spray them everywhere. So whenever a new pesticide is developed many thousands of tests need to be done to make sure that it won’t adversely affect other non-targeted species. It’s a common problem with many herbicides and insecticides that they end up having long-term unintended consequences that result in harm to other species, including humans.
Tests need to be done on thousands of different species before a chemical is released in order to know whether or not it’s harmful. Mammals tend to have a different level of toxicity than other animals for each different pesticide. Some have little or no effect on mammals while others are just the opposite. Plus, there is always the problem with future generations and what happens in the womb which is a specialty of mammalogy as well.
If you’re thinking of a career as a mammalogist, there are plenty of opportunities to work nearly everywhere on earth. There are governments, zoos, fish and game agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and museums all need trained professionals. The study of mammals is an ongoing and growing occupation that needs bright, committed people to protect us from ourselves and anything else that comes along.
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