Now extinct mammoths used to roam the Earth with the frequency and variety of their modern relatives, elephants!
Until their total extinction, mammoths were a highly successful and widespread species, found from central Africa, through Europe onto North America. Indeed, Mammoths lived throughout the entire Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs -over 5 million years – and diversified into many species of various appearances and sizes. However, through a myriad of factors including climate change, disease and human hunting, the majority of the last mammoths – which were woolly mammoths living in Siberia – were wiped out between 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.
From the frozen remains of examples found in the 20th and 21st Centuries (specimens are preserved in mummified states in Siberian permafrost), mammoth DNA has been ratified by scientists to be almost identical to that of modern elephants, with their appearance being closely linked.
Woolly mammoth facts
Head – Mammoths had tall, dome-shaped heads and tough, thick skulls handy when fighting and fending off attack.
Trunk – Like elephants trunks today, mammoth trunks were used to drink and grab flora.
Hair – The woolly mammoth, a variety of mammoths native to northern Europe and Russia, evolved so that it was completely covered in 90cm long hair. Mammoths in warmer climates, such as those of Africa, had less hair.
Tusks – Mammoth tusks were considerably longer and more curved than those of elephants, curling inwards at the tip. They were used to scrape away snow and ice from the ground when feeding, as well as for protection and in ‘ dominance rituals.
Back – The hind legs of mammoths were shorter than those at the front, the consequence of which is a sloping back running from the shoulders to hips.
Fat – Mammoths tended to sport a fatty lump at the top of their spine that was used to store energy. This, as with the camels of today, allowed them to traverse many miles with no food or water.
Legs – Due to their mighty weight (over eight tons) and colossal height (over five metres), the legs of mammoths were massive columns of flesh, muscle and bone.