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Mammals include the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale.The basic body type is a terrestrial quadruped, but some mammals are adapted for life at sea, in the air, in trees, underground or on two legs.While mammal classification at the family level has been relatively stable, several contending classifications regarding the higher levels—subclass, infraclass and order, especially of the marsupials—appear in contemporaneous literature.Much of the changes reflect the advances of cladistic analysis and molecular genetics.No classification system is universally accepted; Mc Kenna & Bell (1997) and Wilson & Reader (2005) provide useful recent compendiums.

The modern mammalian orders arose in the Paleogene and Neogene periods of the Cenozoic era, after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, and have been among the dominant terrestrial animal groups from 66 million years ago to the present.Findings from molecular genetics, for example, have prompted adopting new groups, such as the Afrotheria, and abandoning traditional groups, such as the Insectivora.The mammals represent the only living Synapsida, which together with the Sauropsida form the Amniota clade.Mammals are hunted or raced for sport, and are used as model organisms in science.Mammals have been depicted in art since Palaeolithic times, and appear in literature, film, mythology, and religion.

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