Mammals

Class Mammalia

This is the class most recognizable to us as this is the class humans belong in!  Mammals, just like fish, can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all share the same five characteristics.

  1. All mammals have fur or hair; some, such as the dolphin, only have hair at birth which eventually falls out.
  2. Female mammals all have mammary glands that produce milk.
  3. Mammals are all warm-blooded animals, meaning they regulate their body temperature internally (“endothermic”).
  4. All mammals will give birth to live young; the platypus is the odd one out, it lays eggs, but shares all other characteristics with mammals so it is put in
    its own separate subclass within mammalia.
  5. All mammals have lungs and breathe air; even though dolphins can stay underwater for a long time, they still must come to the surface eventually to take  a breath.

Many mammals in the salt marsh are quick and elusive, particularly the mink and the otter.  Bottlenose dolphins, however, frequent the Southeast’s estuaries and tidal creeks and can usually be seen easily from boat or dock.  Although many mammals appear friendly and look approachable, it is important to remember they are wild animals.  You should not touch or feed them and they should be viewed from a distance.  Legislation, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, outlines appropriate viewing distances for a number of mammals and the penalties associated with interacting with them.  This protection is for both the animal and the human.

Bottlenose dolphin C

Tursiops truncatus

Characteristics:

Gray body with large head and defined beak; dorsal fin triangular; flukes pointed and deeply notched

Characteristics:

Gray body with large head and defined beak; dorsal fin triangular; flukes pointed and deeply notched

Range:

Worldwide, tropical to cold-temperate waters

Size:

Inshore groups up to 6ft (2m) in length

Habitat:

Deep estuaries to shallow tidal creeks

Fun Fact:

Propel themselves and their prey out of the water during strand feeding, often seen along banks of tidal creeks

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Mink C

Mustela vison

Characteristics:
Short legs and long tail; brown fur with white markings under chin; tip of tail is darker than the rest of the body

Characteristics:
Short legs and long tail; brown fur with white markings under chin; tip of tail is darker than the rest of the body
Range:
North America except southwest and most northwest
Size:
19 – 28in (48-71cm) in length
Habitat:
Tidal creeks, swamps, rivers, ponds
Fun Fact:
Mink are polygamous and can often be aggressive in their courtship
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North American River Otter C

Lontra canadensis

Characteristics:

Streamlined body with brown fur and long tapered tail; prominent whiskers below the nose

Characteristics:

Streamlined body with brown fur and long tapered tail; prominent whiskers below the nose

Range:

Throughout North American waterways

Size:

Average 4ft (1m) in length

Habitat:

Lakes, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, tidal creeks

Fun Fact:

Powerful musk glands produce a pungent scent, used to communicate with other otters

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Raccoon C

Procyon lotor

Characteristics:

Gray and black with a distinct black banded tail; conspicuous ears stand straight up; band of black covers the eyes

Characteristics:

Gray and black with a distinct black banded tail; conspicuous ears stand straight up; band of black covers the eyes

Range:

Throughout the U.S.

Size:

Up to 3ft (1m) in length

Habitat:

Variety of habitats, in the marsh from platform to upland

Fun Fact:

Do not truly hibernate in cold weather, will hide and become inactive

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