What Are The Different Orders Of Mammals?


There are over five thousand species of mammals worldwide, and these are made up of different classifications. One of these groups is known as orders. There are twenty-eight orders of mammals, and in this article, I wanted to look at the different types.

What are the different orders of mammals?

  • Artiodactyla (Even-toed Ungulates)
  • Carnivora (Meat-eaters)
  • Cetacea (Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales)
  • Chiroptera (Bats) Cingulata (Armadillos)
  • Dermoptera (Flying lemurs or Colugos)
  • Eulipotuphla (Hedgehogs, Moles, Shrews etc.)
  • Hyracoidea (Hyraxes)
  • Lagomorpha (Hares, Rabbits and Pikas)
  • Macroscelidea (Elephant Shrew)
  • Perissodactyla (Odd-toed Hoofed Animals)
  • Pholidota (Pangolins)
  • Pilosa (Sloths, Anteaters)
  • Primates (Primates)
  • Proboscidea (Elephant)
  • Rodentia (Gnawing Mammals)
  • Scandentia (Tree Shrews)
  • Sirenia (Dugongs and manatees)
  • Tubulidentata (Aardvarks)
  • Monotremata (Monotremes)
  • Dasyuromorphia (Tasmanian devil, Quolls, Dunnarts, Numbat, Tasmanian wolf)
  • Didelphimorphia (Opossums)
  • Diprotodontia (Koalas, Kangaroos, Wallabies etc.)
  • Microbiotheria (Monitos del monte)
  • Notoryctemorphia (Marsupial Moles)
  • Paucituberculata (Shrew Opossums)
  • Peramelemorphia (Bandicoots and Bilbies)
  • Afrosoricida (Golden Moles)

By breaking all living organisms into different groups, it is easy to identify different types of animals, plants, etc.

There are seven classifications of mammals. These are:

  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

Order is a category of classification below class and above family. All mammals belong to the Kingdom of Animalia, the phylum of Mammalia, and are split into three subclasses of Prototheria (monotremes,) Metatheria (marsupials,) and Eutheria (placental mammals.)

These are then broken down into the twenty-eight orders of mammals.

To find out how mammals are classified, you can find out more in this article I have written here.

Close up portrait of Jaguar (Panthera onca)

What Are The Different Orders Of Mammals?

Artiodactyla (Even-toed Ungulates)

Artiodactyla is made up of all the even-toed hoofed animals. Also called cloven-hooved, these mammals are made up of antelope, bison, camels, cows, deer, giraffe, goats, pigs and sheep. Most of the large mammals found in the World are part of this order.

Some species such as the hippopotamus and bison have short legs and a stocky body, whereas other species such as camels and giraffes have longer, thinner legs and a slender body.

Wood Bison

Most species eat plant-based materials, and mammals of the suborder Ruminantia have a four-chambered stomach, which allows them to get all the vitamins and nutrients they need from the plants while breaking down the hard to digest materials.

It is one of the largest mammal orders, with over two hundred species of mammals. Artiodactyla is made up of animals that benefit humans more than any other order.

Carnivora (Meat-eaters)

The order of Carnivora is comprised of animals that have evolved to eat meat. These include diverse terrestrial animals such as polar bears, wolves, weasels, raccoons, dogs and cats, and also includes marine mammals such as seals and walruses.

All members of Carnivora are not necessarily carnivores. Although many are purely carnivorous, some are not, and will supplement their diets with vegetation.

Carnivores can be found all over the World, not only on land but also in the seas and oceans. They have adapted to thrive in all habitats including deserts, forests, grasslands, mountains, scrubland and tundra.

There are over two hundred and seventy species of carnivores. They are essential to the ecosystem, keeping the number of rodents and pests down to allow the growth of shrubs and forests.

For ten carnivores you can find in North America, I have written this article here.

Cetacea (Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales)

Cetacea includes some of the mammals found in the seas and oceans. These include all species of dolphins, porpoises and whales. There are currently over eighty species of cetaceans and include the largest animal to ever lived on Earth, the blue whale. 

Whales can be divided into two subgroups, the Odontoceti (toothed whales,) and the Mysticeti (baleen whales.). Baleen whales feed in several ways but generally gulping in large quantities of water, which include shrimp-like krill which they feed. The water is then pushed out through mat-like baleen which strains the krill, where they remain inside the whale.  

The suborder of toothed whales includes sperm whales, belugas, beaked whales, dolphins, porpoises, killer whales and narwhals. 

Have you ever wondered what the different groups of marine mammals are? You can find out in this article I have written here.

Chiroptera (Bats)

Chiroptera is one of the largest orders of mammals, comprising one-fifth of all species. There are approximately one thousand species of bats, consisting of two suborders: Megachiroptera, which is made up of about 173 species and Microchiroptera which includes about 813 species. These are also known as megabats and microbats.  

Microchiroptera use a system of echolocation to navigate whereas megabats do not (although one species does, the Egyptian fruit bat.) Microbats also have tails, with larger ears and smaller eyes than megabats.

Bats are the only order of mammals to fly. The wings are webbed and made from a thin membrane called a patagium. To fly, they spread out their fingers, using the extra skin to assist them in flight.

Bats have more bones than in the wings of birds, which allows them to maneuver tight corners at high speeds. 

If you want to know how bats evolved, I have written this article.

Cingulata (Armadillos)

There is made up of about twenty species of armadillo. Armadillos are best known for their shells which keep them safe from predators. These bony shells are made up of scales made from keratin, a substance most like our hair or fingernails.

Armadillo photo

There is only one species of armadillo in North America, the nine-banded armadillo. All other species of armadillo live in Central and South America.

Some species of armadillo can roll themselves up entirely covering their bodies with their shells. Some can also jump high into the air to surprise predators.  

Armadillos eat mostly insects, vegetable matter, and invertebrates. They also eat eggs and fruit but use their tongue to catch ants, beetles and termites.

For more information on armadillos, I have written this article here.

Dermoptera (Flying lemurs or Colugos)

The order of Dermoptera consists of mammals called colugos. These animals are found in Southeast Asia, and although they cannot fly, they are gliding mammals. There are just two species that exist.  

Colugo use extra flaps of skin between their legs to glide between higher and lower trees. They are also known as flying lemurs, but neither fly or are lemurs.  

Dermoptera are closely related to another order of mammals, primates, based on genetic similarities.

Colugo are medium-sized animals, approximately the same size as a large squirrel. Colugos are herbivores and feed on fruit, plants and flowers.

Eulipotuphla (Hedgehogs, Moles, Shrews etc.)

Eulipotuphla contains many families and species of mammals including hedgehogs, moles, solenodons and shrews.

They were members of the now-defunct order Insectivora, and although not strictly insectivores, insects still make up most of the main food sources. Some also feed on bulbs, plants, small animals and fish.  

There are over three hundred and fifty species in the order Eulipotuphla.

Hyracoidea (Hyraxes)

Hyracoidea is an order that contains hyraxes, also known as conies or dassies. They re also known as rock rabbits, but are no relation to rabbits.

There is one family in the order made up of seven species. They can be found in Africa and the Middle East.

These small rabbit-sized animals have a rodent-like appearance, with short tails. Hyraxes also have hooves which can be found on the first and third digits of the hindfoot.  

Due to the hooves, it is thought that hyraxes may come from the same stem as ungulates, but this is still unknown. Fossils also show that hyraxes have lots in common with sea cows and elephants.

Lagomorpha (Hares, Rabbits and Pikas)

There are two families of Lagomorpha, which are made up of hares and rabbits, and pikas. There are over ninety species in this order.  

Rabbits and hares move by jumping, using their hind legs to propel themselves forward, and their forelimbs to soften the landing. Pikas do not have strong hind limbs.  

Pikas can be found in North American and Central Asia. They are small with a very little tail. Some live in between the rocks in mountain regions, whereas others are a burrowing species.  

The burrowing species do not live long, but have large litters, whereas the mountain dwellers typically live longer, but have smaller litters.

Hares are medium-sized mammals that can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. They are solitary animals with several small litters born throughout the year.

Rabbits are smaller than most species of hare but larger than pikas. Rabbits have been domesticated, with many people keeping them as pets. They live in dry and grassland conditions.

Rabbits are a keystone species, keeping the growth of grasses and herbs in check, while also being the main food source for many carnivorous predators.

Macroscelidea (Elephant Shrew)

The order of Macroscelidea is made up of a single family of the elephant shrew. There are around twenty species which can be found in Northern Africa and also Sub-Saharan Africa.  

They are small creatures, usually mouse size but can range up to the size of a small squirrel.  

Elephant-shrew on stone

Named after their larger counterparts, elephant shrews have a trunk-like snout. They use this to twist around to look for food. They also have scaly tails and long legs, which they use to jump from one place to another.

They are one of the fastest mammals for their size, with speeds reaching 28.8 kmph (17.9 mph.) 

Many elephant shrews are monogamous, living close to their partners, although in separate nests. They live in leaf nests, in rock crevices or holes in the ground. Elephant shrews can live in some of the harshest conditions on Earth, including the deserts of southwestern Africa.

Perissodactyla (Odd-toed Hoofed Animals)

The order Perissodactyla contains odd-toed ungulates. They are known as odd-toed ungulates as most of their weight is pushed onto one toe, the third toe. The other toes are either absent, positioned to the back or vestigial.  

This is a major difference to the even-toed ungulates where most of the weight is borne on two toes. Another difference between even-toed and odd-toed ungulates is that they do not have a multi-compartmented stomach, digesting plant material in the intestines.

There are just under twenty species of mammals in this order, made up of horses, asses, zebras, rhinoceroses, and tapirs.

Pholidota (Pangolins)

There is only one existing family in the order Pholidota. These consist of pangolins. There are eight species of Pholidota alive, living in Asia and Africa.  

Like the armadillo, pangolins have protective scales made from keratin. These scales help to protect them from predators. On newborns, the scales are soft but harden as they age. In line with many species of armadillos, they can also roll themselves into a ball.

Pangolins are nocturnal, and are insectivores, living mainly on a diet of termites and ants. They have long tongues which they use to scoop the insects up. The tongues can be longer than the animals head and body.

Similar to a skunk, pangolins have a chemical that they can spray, further helping them against their many predators.  

Pilosa (Sloths, Anteaters)

Flying Lemur (Galeopterus variegatus) clings to a tree and rests during the day (nocturnal animal), in Mu Ko Surin National Park, Thailand

The order Pilosa can be found only in South and Central America and comprises of sloths and anteaters.  

Anteaters eat ants and termites, eating only at one nest. This allows the ants to replenish the colonies before the anteater comes back. Anteaters are slow animals, but the claws on their front paws can take down a jaguar.

Sloths are extremely slow animals, and one of the ways that they survive against predators is due to their excellent camouflage. The fur on a sloth provides a home for algae, and the green color from the algae helps to camouflage the sloths in the trees. Many predators are unable to see them, thinking they are part of the tree.

The order Pilosa is very similar to armadillos, although neither the sloth or armadillo have scales, opting for fur instead.

Primates (Primates)

Primates are the order that most people know about as humans are one of the many species. Primates can be found on every continent as humans, but many species only live in Asia and Africa. Some can be found in Southern Mexico, Central and South America.

Primates have five fingers with fingernails. All primates have opposing thumbs, allowing them to use tools. Most primates have tails except for apes and humans.  

Species of primates include apes, baboons, gibbons, howler monkeys, macaques, and squirrel monkeys, among others.

Homo sapiens (humans) are the only species of primate that is completely bipedal, with all other species using all four limbs to walk.

Primates generally live in trees but can be seen terrestrially as well.

Proboscidea (Elephant)

There is only one family of mammals contained in the order Proboscidea which consists of elephants. There are currently just two species of elephant left in the World, although this was once thought to be as high as 350.

These two species are named after their respective countries: African elephant and Asian elephant.

Proboscidea is named after the proboscis or trunk that protrudes from the front of the elephant. Elephants use their trunk to grab food, using their trunk as we would use our hands. They can also use their trunks in many other ways, such as picking up tree trunks. The trunk is also used for breathing and for bringing water into the mouth.

Elephants are large creatures with tusks, large ear flaps and large legs. Elephants are the largest living terrestrial mammals. African males are larger at 11 foot tall at the shoulder, weighing up to 6.8 tonnes. Females can reach almost 9 feet tall, weighing up to 3.5 tonnes.

Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants, with males reaching up to 9 ft 6 in tall, and weights of 4.6 tonnes, with females again smaller at 8 foot tall and weighing approximately 3 tonnes.

Rodentia (Gnawing Mammals)

Rodentia, or rodents as we most likely know the as are the largest order of mammals. Rodents make up over 40% of the mammals worldwide with over two thousand, two hundred species and twenty-eight families. This amount of different mammals that are rodents means that most non-flying mammals are rodents.  

Black rat

Rodentia includes small mammals that have been domesticated and kept as pets. Hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, chinchillas, and guinea pigs are all members of this order. Other animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, beavers, prairie dogs, marmots, voles, lemming porcupines among many others are all members of Rodentia. 

The largest member is the capybara which is about the size of a pig.

Apart from Antarctica, rodents can be found on every continent and in every habitat. From deserts to arctic tundra, and marshlands to mountains, rodents can be found almost everywhere.

Scandentia (Tree Shrews)

Scandentia is made up of the species of tree shrews. These small animals appear in approximately twenty species and can be found in the rainforests of South and South East Asia.  

Tree shrews are mostly terrestrial despite their name, although some species prefer living in trees. They feed on plant material such as seeds and fruits, and also on anthropods.

Tree shrews are squirrel-like in appearance, with a furry, long tail. However, squirrels have whiskers which tree shrews do not. Tree shrews also have five toes.  

Tree shrews have excellent hearing and sight with large eyes.  

Sirenia (Dugongs and manatees)

Dugongs and manatees make up the order of Sirenia. There are four species included in the order, three species of manatee and one species of the dugong.

Manatee

Manatees can be found in the warm waters of the Atlantic and the rivers leading inland. The dugong can be seen off the coast of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Both the dugong and manatees are slow-moving, and this does lead to damage by boats. Many can be seen with propeller marks on them.  

Both the dugong and the manatee are torpedo-shaped with front flippers, but no hind flippers. The dugong and the Amazonian manatee can weigh up to 400 kg, but the African and West Indian manatees can weigh up to 1500 kg. Although very heavy, they are buoyant in part to lungs that are long and thin.

They can live between fifty and seventy years and eat a herbivorous diet. This includes water weeds and other water vegetation.

Want to know more about the manatee. You can find out 101 facts that I have compiled here.

Tubulidentata (Aardvarks)

Tubulidentata consists of only family and one species, the aardvarks. Aardvarks have a long snout which they use to sniff out ants and termites. Aardvarks primarily use their sense of smell to find food.

Aardvarks are a rare burrowing mammal found in southern Africa and are often high on people’s must-see lists on safari.

They have a long, sticky tongue which they use to get the ants and termites out of their mounds. They are excellent at using their claws to get termites out of the hard mounds in the savannahs of Africa. Their claws are adapted for digging, with a shovel-like shape.

Aardvarks are large, up to seven feet in length and can weigh up to 140 pounds. They have long ears and a thick tail. Aardvarks are quick and can run up to 40 kmh (25 mph.)

Tubulidentata are thought to be the last living group of primitive ungulates.

Monotremata (Monotremes)

Monotremata is the oldest order of mammals, and have features that are both reptilian and birdlike. Monotremata are the only mammals that give birth to their young through hatching eggs. They are also unique in that they have a single opening for their digestive, genital organs are urinary tract.  

There are only five species of Monotremata, made up of the duck-billed platypus and four species of echidna. The echidna are also known as spiny anteaters. These can all be found in Australia and New Guinea and are the Western long-beaked echidna, Eastern long-beaked echidna, short-beaked echidna, and Sir David’s long-beaked echidna.

Dasyuromorphia (Tasmanian devil, Quolls, Dunnarts, Numbat, Tasmanian wolf)

Dasyuromorphia are made up of marsupial carnivores in three families. All of the species in this order live in Australasia. There are currently over seventy-five living species. Most are solitary, nocturnal or crepuscular hunters, only coming together to mate or rear their young.

Tasmanian Devil

Although most are small mouse-like carnivores, there are also larger members of the family such as the Tasmanian devil and the six species of quolls.

Didelphimorphia (Opossums)

The order of Didelphimorphia is made up of only one family. Opossums are small to medium in size and are marsupials. There are over sixty species of opossum, but only one, Virginia opossum lives in North America.

A close up of Baby Opossum learning to climb.

The Virginia opossum is known for its habit of playing dead, in which when threatened, goes into an involuntary catatonic state, excreting smells to trick predators into thinking they are dead.

Opossums can be carnivorous or omnivorous, and can mainly be found in trees.

Want to know why opossums play dead? Find out in this article I have written here.

Diprotodontia (Koalas, Kangaroos, Wallabies etc.)

Diprotodontia is the largest order of marsupials and is made up of koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, possums, wombats and gliders.

They are one of the most diverse orders of mammals in their habitat and size. Although animals in the order such as the koala and kangaroo look different, they all have the same two characteristics.

All members of Diprotodontia have fused fingers in their hind limbs. This looks like webbed feet, and the second and third digits are fused.  

The second characteristic that all members of the order have is due to their herbivorous diet. All species in the order feed on grass and leaves, and they have no canine teeth, although they do have incisors, molars and premolars.

Diprotodontia live only in Australasia.

Microbiotheria (Monitos del monte)

There are only one species of Microbiotheria that is still alive. The monitos del monte can be found in South America, and are small mouse-sized animals.  

They are omnivores and will feed on fruits and insects, with beetles, crickets and grasshoppers making up almost half of their diet.  

Monitos de monte is also known as the colocolo and can produce a smell that is used to scare off predators.

Notoryctemorphia (Marsupial Moles)

The order of Notoryctemorphia contains two species of marsupial moles. These are the Southern marsupial mole and the Northern marsupial mole. Both species can be found only in Australia.

Being marsupials, both species have pouches for their young to develop. They spend most of their time underground and are functionally blind. They can hear but have no external ears.  

Both species of marsupial moles are classed as endangered species.

Paucituberculata (Shrew Opossums)

Paucituberculata is an order of marsupials from South America. They can be found in the Andes Mountains.

The order is made up of seven living species. All of these species are shrew opossums. These mammals are about the size of a rat, with a long tail and a pointed snout.  

They hunt at night and in the early evening, using their excellent hearing to make up for their poor eyesight.

Shrew opossums have paired sperm. The pairs are joined together while in the male’s reproductive system and remain joined until just before fertilization.

Peramelemorphia (Bandicoots and Bilbies)

The last order of marsupials contains bandicoots and bilbies. They can be found in Australia and New Guinea.

As with the order of Diprotodontia, the bibles and bandicoots have fused toes between their second and third toes.  

They look like a mixture of a rat and a rabbit, with a length between 17 and 60 centimeters, a short tail, and weighing up to 10 pounds.

Although they have five toes, the first and fifth are usually very small and without claws. Their back legs are strong, enabling them to leap, hop and run.

All members of the order are omnivores, with teeth adapted to this diet.

Afrosoricida (Golden Moles)

The order of Afrosoricida are golden moles, also known as tenrecs and otter shrews. Afrosoricida means “looking like African shrews.” They can be found in Madagascar and West and Central Africa. 

They are placental mammals and resemble mice, otters, opossums and shrews. Afrosoricidans are thought to be one of the oldest types of mammals. They have a cloaca, which means that poo and pee come from the same place. Birds and reptiles also have a cloaca, giving evidence that they are an ancient order.  

Afrosoricidans are thought to have been around for over seventy million years.

Have you ever wondered how different mammals are classified? This article which I have written here will help.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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