About this Site
This educational website, designed to serve as a resource for students, teachers, and the general public interested in the biology and identification of mammals in North America, was developed by the External Affairs and Public Programs Division of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. The resources we make available are derived from the Museum's unparalleled natural history collections, its scientific research, permanent and special exhibits, libraries, and through collaborations with other organizations and individuals with special resources to complement the site.
This website includes detailed descriptions, images, and distribution ranges for more than 740 mammals native to the North American continent. The primary resources for the site have been based on the species found in the continental United States, Canada and Mexico. The primary source for inclusion of a species and the scientific and common name for each species, and whether it is, indeed a species (as opposed to being a subspecies) is Mammal Species of the World. Other resources to confirm agreement among scientists include IUCN, ITIS, Conabio/Naturalista and NatureServe. Information about the properties and characteristics of the species are derived from a variety of published resources.
Back to top
Map Search (with your mouse)
An interactive map of the North American Continent allows the user to search for all of the mammals that occur at a specific location using your mouse or the search box.
The map provides a variety of optional overlays (Map Type) to assist in this search: topography, states and province boundaries, rivers, highways and, at highest resolution, US counties. Before you search with your mouse, choose which map layer you want, what language to use (English or Spanish), and whether you want the results as Scientific or Common Names.
The magnification tool (+ and - buttons) enables you to change the scale of the map to more accurately position your cursor.
To start your search, click on the button "Mammal Search", then move your cursor to the desired location and on the map and click to get a list of the mammalian species indigenous to that location. A blue window pops up with a list of the species in the location you selected; it also has an "Explore" option which will transfer these result to the dark green column on the right. You can use your browser to look at each species (use the expand/collapse button above the results) on the list or you can create a personal Field Guide by checking the boxes next to the species of interest. Some locations may have only 30 species, but others might have as many as 70 or 80.
Once you have finished using the map search tool, you can return to the other parts of the site by moving your mouse to the words "North American Mammals" in the red banner at the top; the browser's "go back" button will NOT take you out of the the map site.
Back to top
The window at the top of the dark green column allows you to search by location - click on the words "Search Option," select "Near a town, city or ZIP code" and enter a value. You can also choose from a drop down list to search for mammals in an ecoregion, a state or province, or a national park.
Back to top
Species Name Search
The site offers a number of ways to find Species, Genera, Families, and Orders of mammals. Searches can be made using scientific or common names. "Search the Archive" (main.cfm) at the top of the navigation bar (the dark green left-hand column on each page [except the map and image enlargements]) outlines all the possibilities.
For a text search, go to "Species Name" in the navigation column. You can make text entries for common names or scientific names. If you would like a complete list of the mammals detailed on this website, leave all entry boxes blank, and click on the button "Search Common Names".
The output choices are a list of species ("Search Species") or sets of images "Visual Search"). Please note: The Visual Search option is not comprehensive but was originally developed for mammals that are found in the U.S; it does not include mammals found only in Mexico, nor does it include those described recently as new species. However, it is a colorful output for young children.
A mouse click on a species name (or image in a visual search) will then open the web page for that species, featuring a painting of the animal in a typical pose (U.S. only), a range map showing where the mammal has been known to live, a description of the species characteristics and measurements, and oftentimes one or more photographs, usually in the wild. Some species accounts include drawings of skulls and/or bones, important tools for the morphologist and evolutionary biologist.
You can also search by scientific name or common name from the map page. The map page opens with a complete list of orders in the dark green column on the right; each order can be expanded to show the families and then the species When you check the box(es) of those of interest, their range map(s) will appear. Just to the right of the checked box for each species, the icon of a piece of paper and of a magnifying glass will appear. The a click on the glass will bring this species map to the center of the screen; a click on the paper icon will bring up the same species detail as if you were using the text method in the paragraph above. You can also create a Field Guide for the checked species using the icon at the top right area of the map's dark green column.
If you wish to create a high quality print output of any one or more species on any list printout from any kind of search, you select the check box next to the species and then follow the instructions at the bottom of the list of mammals or in this document at Ceating a Field Guide.
Back to top
Family Tree Search
Another way to search for taxa is through the Family Tree, otherwise known as a cladogram. By mouse clicking on any highlighted group of mammals, the tree will expand to show all taxa included within the group. This diagram depicts genealogical relationships among groups of mammals, and it can reveal surprising results. For example, within the dog family Canidae, the cladogram shows red foxes being more closely related to wolves than red foxes are to gray foxes. These counterintuitive results are what make the cladogram one worthwhile way to search. A mouse click on any genus in the cladogram will return a list of all the species in that genus; each one can then be viewed individually, or members of the group can be selected for a Field Guide output.
Back to top
Conservation Status Search
Yet another search tool is by Conservation Status. The categories and conservation status of each species are reviewed from time to time according to the IUCN Redlist - the IUCN World Conservation Congress' assessments of threatened species. The Redlist is the world-recognized standard for global species status. The purpose of the Redlist is to "catalogue and highlight those taxa facing a higher global risk of extinction."
All but a few species on this website have a conservation status. Several species are included in Mammal Species of the World (MSW3) but are not recognized as a species under that name by IUCN. In these cases, IUCN might consider the MSW3 species as a subspecies and that conservation category is of the IUCN parent is the one used here.
Back to top
Special Collections Search
The Special Collections of bones and teeth both aid in the identification of species, and allow for the comparison of functional parts of the skull and skeleton. This collection is particularly suited for identifying adaptations, and making distinctions between taxa. The output can be either a list ("Search Species") or visual ("Visual Search").
Back to top
This website offers a special feature for printing information about species. This printout includes the location for which the information was collected, the animal names (scientific and common names), the species' painting (if it is a mammal found in the US) and distribution range from the species page, the descriptive information for the species, and a special area for notes. This Field Guide will include one page for each species in PDF format; you must use Adobe Acrobat Reader (http://get.adobe.com/reader/) to view and print the field guide.
PLEASE NOTE: each page (species) of the field guide represents about 50 KB information; you may want to limit the number of animals you check if you have limited WiFi or storage capabilities. You should also set your printer for high quality output for best results.
To convert a list of species to a personal field guide from a list or from the map, click in the box to the left of each species for those that you wish to include (from the map or from a list); if you wish to select a group click on the "Select All" button at the bottom of the list or on the orders or families on the map. If you wish to start over, click on the "Clear All" button (list or map). Once you have checked those animals you wish to have listed, click on "Create Field Guide".
Please see the separate section, About Maps, for a discussion about species distribution maps and the use of GIS.
Back to top
Other Educational Web Sites
Users of this website may enjoy the other educational natural history websites developed by the National Museum of Natural History.
Back to top
(opens in a new window)
Robert Costello - Alfred Rosenberger
This site is based on The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals, by Don E. Wilson and Sue Ruff (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999), Mammals of North America, by Roland W. Kays and Don E. Wilson (Princeton University Press, 2002) and Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), by Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder (editors)(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).
Many have contributed material and information for this site. Special thanks to Drs. Don Wilson, Robert Hoffmann, Kristofer Helgren, and others in the Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution; Sue Ruff, for superbly editing text and arbitrating taxonomic issues; Dr. Roland Kays, Director, Biodiversity and Earth Observation Lab, Nature Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences,for providing field guide paintings and maps; Dr. Wes Sechrest, Global Wildlife Conservation, for creating and sharing the initial biogeographic distribution maps; Gabriela Karam Gutiérrez, Chief Translator; Douglas Keinath, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, University of Wyoming for the initial Thomomys clusius range map; Dr. Daryl Boness, Department of Zoological Research, National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution; Dr. Alicia V. Linzey, Department of Biology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, for her illustrations; American Society of Mammalogists; the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2013.1 for conservation status of species and earlier versions (2010 to 2012) and for marine mammal and several other distribution maps; NatureServe for most US and Canada land mammal distribution maps; Harcourt College Publishing; Princeton University Press; Weldon Owen, Inc; and to a number of volunteers, including Emily and Melanie Rosenberger, Frances Pitlick, Anne Goldfein, Lara Goeke, Brooke Cain, Michele Delvoie, Michael Schoen, Daniel Dancis and Reid Rumelt for research, graphics assistance, proofing, beta-testing and many other assorted activities that go into development and publication of a web site.
We greatly appreciate your interest and welcome comments and concerns. Direct comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to top