Mammalia is a class of animal within the Phylum Chordata.
Mammal classification has been through several iterations since Carolus Linnaeus initially defined the class.
Competing ideas about the relationships of mammal orders do persist and are currently in development.
Most significantly in recent years, cladistic thinking has led to an effort to ensure that all taxonomic designations represent monophyletic groups.
The field has also seen a recent surge in interest and modification due to the results of molecular phylogenetics.
Molecular studies by molecular systematists, based on DNA analysis, have revealed new relationships among mammal families over the last few years.
The most recent classification systems based on molecular studies reveal four groups or lineages of placental mammals which diverged from early common ancestors in the Cretaceous.