Welcome to the Mammal Lab

Welcome to the laboratory in Mammalogy. This site contains a series of mammalian diversity labs and virtual techniques modules for use in mammalogy and vertebrate diversity courses. The diversity labs are aimed toward students actively taking a mammalogy lab course; each module includes tons of high resolution skull photos for each family, key distinguishing traits, updated taxonomy, study guides, and evolutionary histories. The online nature of the manual allows it to be updated in real time with new information, new media, and changes in taxonomy! The Introduction to Mammalogy lab, Superorder Xenarthra diversity lab, and two others are FREE to view for anyone as a preview, but a membership is required for the rest. Become a member to view them all and/or select the module package you have been assigned by your instructor. You will have access to these labs for the duration of your membership.

Instructors: to request a free preview access code or a custom set of labs for a reduced price for adoption in your course, please submit your request to [email protected].

Virtual lab modules:

  • Introduction to Mammalogy LabFree to View!
    • This module is a basic introduction to the skills you’ll need to navigate a basic diversity-based mammalogy lab with study skins and skulls. It goes over how study skins and skulls are made, how to read specimen ID tags, zoogeographic zones, dental formulae, and how to use dichotomous keys. It ends with a short exercise using a dichotomous key to identify 11 rodent study skins down to species based on external features.
  • Diversity Labs for Every Taxon – MEMBERS ONLY (Except Xenarthra is Free)
    • The site hosts pages for all extant mammalian orders across 12 pages, organized taxonomically. Each page contains a general overview of the taxon, a description of key shared derived characters of the group with annotated photos, an evolutionary history of the group with a phylogenetic tree, and complete accounts for every extant family. These accounts include common names, number of species, zoogeographic zones, key distinguishing external and skull traits to use for identification, dorsal/ventral/lateral skull photos of one or usually many more members of the group aimed at showing the diversity within the family, and a general description of their ecology and morphology.
  • Mammalian Origins and EvolutionFree to View!
    • This module takes the user through the evolution of mammals from Synapsida through Mammaliformes using 3D models and artist reconstructions. Finally, virtual tours of the American Museum of Natural History and La Brea Tar Pits highlight real museum experiences and users are asked probing questions about how we learn about our evolutionary past through fossils.
  • Cetacean Evolution and DiversityFree to View!
    • Users first explore the evolutionary origins of whales and dolphins using 3D models of fossil skulls, artist reconstructions, and a video. Then the module discusses the diversity of extant cetaceans and asks users to learn to identify different extant whale and dolphin species (focus is on Southern California species) from key characteristics visible from the surface during a whale watching tour to prepare them to take a photo based identification quiz.
  • Skull Morphology & Feeding Biomechanics – MEMBERS ONLY
    • This module first asks users to learn the bones and structural features of the mammalian skull and different shapes and heights of mammalian molars. They then collect jaw lever measurements from a set of images of carnivore jaws using ImageJ software, calculate estimates of bite force, and assess how bite force varies with diet.
  • Skeletal Morphology & Locomotion Biomechanics – MEMBERS ONLY
    • Users first learn the bones of the mammalian skeleton and explore skeletal adaptations to different types of locomotion. They will then work with a dataset on bat wing loading and aspect ratio to assess how wing shape is influenced by foraging strategy and diet. Finally, users collect measurements of femur and metatarsal length from images of mammalian hindlimbs, estimate maximum running speeds, and answer questions about how limb proportions are influenced by locomotor strategy.
  • Trapping, Identification, & Population Ecology – MEMBERS ONLY
    • Users first learn about the basic methods and strategies for live trapping of mammals, focusing on small mammal techniques and processing. Next, they learn to use a dichotomous key and complete an exercise identifying 11 rodent species using external features, similar to what a field mammalogist would do in a survey. Finally, users learn about basic population ecology metrics (richness, evenness, and diversity) and then complete an exercise in Rmarkdown on calculating these metrics and testing differences in rodent communities in urban versus coastal sage scrub habitats.
  • Mark-Recapture Analyses – MEMBERS ONLY
    • In this module, users first learn about how we use mark-recapture studies to estimate population sizes. They generate their own trapping dataset by sampling individual animals (pieces of paper in a bowl), marking them, then resampling many more times. They then use this dataset to calculate population size using the Schnabel method in Excel, and then using other closed methods and the Jolly-Seber method using Rcapture in R.
  • Mammal Tracking I: Radio Telemetry – MEMBERS ONLY
    • Users first learn how VHF radio collars are applied, deployed, and located by field researchers. They then use location data to triangulate the locations of four striped skunks using Google Earth and create error polygons for their locations. They then create 100%, 95%, and 50% Minimum Convex Polygons of the homerange of an African Buffalo in R.
  • Mammal Tracking II: GPS & Satellite Telemetry – MEMBERS ONLY
    • In this module, users learn about how GPS and satellite technology differs from VHF radio telemetry. Users hear about how urban coyotes are GPS tracked in CA and explore four months of actual GPS tracking data from two urban coyotes. They then investigate whale movement patterns using data from Movebank and analyze two whales’ movement over time within their home ranges in Google Earth.