Mammalian Limb Types: Learn More

Although we belong to the same class as orangutans and dogs, we do not have the same external organs
Types of limbs in mammals: learn more

The “hands and feet” of animals are different from each other. After all, its members have adapted to the habitat and needs of each species.   Therefore, although we belong to the same class as orangutans and dogs, that is, mammals, we do not have the same external organs. In this article, we’ll tell you about the different types of mammalian limbs.

What are the limb types in mammals?

The part of the body that we call “legs” can fulfill different functions: locomotion, manipulation of objects, support, etc. So we’ll now look at some of the limb types in mammals:

1. Types of limbs in terrestrial mammals

The vast majority of animals in this group live on land. Despite this, its members are not equal to each other. After all, m uitos mammals had their “legs” front and rear adapted for the race.  Among them, lions, wolves, tigers, etc. stand out. Also, other mammals have adapted to be able to jump. Among them are the hare, the kangaroo, the rabbit, among others. However, there are those who in their adaptation have kept both functions, for example the gazelle.


In all these cases  the limbs are long and strong. This is because they are equipped with tendons that allow movement in different positions. Furthermore, these limbs support the animal’s weight. Finally, they can determine whether the animals will be more or less fast, depending on their physiology.

In addition to all this,  among terrestrial mammals, we can find some species whose legs end in a hoof. Among them are the sheep, the goat, the cow and the camel, which have an even number of nails. In turn, the horse, rhinoceros and tapir have an odd number of hooves.

We can also identify plantigrade animals (bears, humans, kangaroos, etc.), which support the entire sole of the foot when walking. In addition, there are digitigrades (wolves, dogs, cats, among others), which only put their fingers on the ground. There are also  ungulates  (goats and donkeys, for example), which walk on the tips of hooves (or ungulas).

2. Members in marine mammals

Dolphins, whales and manatees are some of the species of marine mammals in which members have become “fins”. The exception to this rule is the otter, which has special legs for moving in rivers and lakes.

marine mammals

The fins of cetaceans allow them to swim and move in the water without problems. However,  unlike terrestrial species, their arms and legs play a minor role in displacement. After all, the main organ responsible for this is the tail fin, a kind of modified tail.

3. Extremities in subterranean mammals

The mole  is the main example of this group. Their hands have changed throughout the evolution of species to allow them to dig the earth. In this way, these animals can build their lairs or quickly escape predators.

The hands of this animal have very powerful claws.  Thus, they are also able to cling to objects such as tree branches or rocks.

4. Limbs in arboreal mammals

Forest animals spend many hours among the trees. Therefore, these animals have special members for this purpose. Chimpanzees, gorillas, lemurs and marmosets – among other primates – can hang from branches and turn upside down. In addition, primate extremities allow them to eat, pick up objects, and even remove parasites from other primates.

green monkey

In turn,  the arbor and other terrestrial primates have extremities that allow them to walk with their hands on the ground. They have long arms and hang from branches when needed.

One of the main features of this family, which we also share, is the thumb opposite the rest of the other fingers. This arrangement allows the animal to skillfully pick up objects.

5. Extremities of flying mammals and gliders

Finally, we must talk about those animals with breasts that have modified their front legs to be able to fly. This is the case of bats and colugos.

The transformation in these cases was as follows: the skin on the abdomen and back stretched and the fingers lengthened . That way they can spread their “wings” and move through the air, even if they’re not birds.

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