One of the most famous prehistoric animals is the woolly mammoth.
The woolly mammoth isn’t the biggest one, but it’s the most popular one since its many fossil remains and pictures were found that helped reconstruct its morphology and lifestyle.
Only two continents were devoid of Woolly Mammoth fossils: Australia and South America.
Most perished ten thousand years ago, but smaller groups of 500 to a thousand animals survived until 1.650 BC on a remote island in the Arctic.
They disappeared due to climate change and uncontrolled hunting.
Woolly Mammoth Facts for Kids
- It stood 9 to 11 feet tall and weighed 5 to 7 tons.
- The African elephant is related to the woolly mammoth.
- A woolly mammoth had a light- to dark brown body with a thick layer of fat.
- They had large heads and massive bodies had large humps on their shoulders.
- The ears and tail were smaller than the elephants’ to help prevent heat loss and possibly frostbites.
Woolly Mammoth Evolution
About six million years ago, the Elephantidae family existed in Africa. The family consists of the elephants that survive today and mammoths.
Elephants and mastodons are related to mammoths. Their hyoid bone was used to determine if they were related.
Hyoid bones are horseshoe-shaped bones found in the neck, just behind the chin and thyroid cartilage.
Identification of mammoths consists mostly of their enamel ridges on their molars.
The enamel ridges of mammoths gradually increased as they evolved.
Additionally, their skulls grew taller and were shorter from the back to the front as well as longer from top to bottom. Three million years ago, mammoths entered Europe.
Mammoths underwent a major physical change in the late Pleistocene period. In short, their cranium got shorter, mandibles got better, and hypsodonty index went up.
Early Humans drew cave paintings to record the relationship they had with woolly mammoths during the ice age.
Around seventy percent of the animal depictions in the Rouffignac cave (France) date back to the Upper Paleolithic period.
Humans also used bone and tusks to form portable art items, shelters, tools, furniture, and even gravestones.
What Did the Woolly Mammoth Look Like?
Our human ancestors painted cave paintings depicting the woolly mammoth, so scientists know a lot about this prehistoric animal, thanks to frozen carcasses that have preserved skeletons, stomach contents, tusks, and even liquid blood.
The largest living mammoths have weighed over a tonne and measured about 4.2 meters or 13.1 feet in height.
Yet most of the known mammoth species are no larger than modern Asian elephants, which stand between 2.5 and 3 meters high on average.
All mammoths, both males and females, have tusks.
Scientists that were examining a baby mammoth have shown that the shape of a mammoth is significantly more influenced by fat, and this facilitated mammoths to store massive amounts of important nutrients necessary for survival.
Besides the fat, mammoths gained more muscle mass and could fight against formidable enemies for their survival.
Mammoths typically had a woolly undercoat hidden beneath a coarser wooly exterior covering.
The tusks of the older male mammoths often curved over each other.
How Do We Know About The Woolly Mammoth?
A complete woolly mammoth skeleton was discovered in 1799.
The pieces of the skeleton were assembled in 1806 by Wilhelm Gottlieb Tilesius and placed in the Zoological Museum of Moscow. pieces together. Tilesius tried his best to reconstruct the first skeleton of an extinct animal, but he made only one error.
The tusks were in the wrong sockets, so they curve outward, rather than inward.
In 2007 a frozen mammoth was discovered. The specimen, named Lyuba, stands 13 feet tall and weighs 50 pounds. You can read more here
When Did Woolly Mammoths Go Extinct
Almost all woolly mammoths died out about 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.
Woolly mammoths were forced to live on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean when rising sea levels caused a population to become trapped.
It is still debated whether mammoths went extinct because of climatic reasons or because of human overhunting.
Researchers wrote in a new study that this was such an isolated group with little genetic diversity.
The shortage of genetic diversity may have contributed significantly to the eventual extinction of woolly mammoths, according to the researchers.
Compared to modern elephants, woolly mammoth ears were smaller.
You can tell an animal’s age by counting the rings on its tusk.
Even though woolly mammoths lived in polar regions, they actually came from a much warmer climate. Mammoths and the Asian elephant are estimated to have originated in Africa 6.7 million to 7 million years ago. After about 4 million years, they moved up into Southern Europe.
A flute crafted of mammoth ivory is one of the oldest-known musical instruments.
Mammoth bones were thought to belong to giants drowned in Noah’s flood until the 18th century.
A French expedition heading to the North Pole in 1872 discovered such preserved woolly mammoth specimens that they lived on them for a few months.