The large, shaggy creature that generally represents the Ice Age is called a woolly mammoth, and it was probably a sight to see as it trudged about the frozen tundra. The beast was equipped with huge tusks similar to an elephant and was covered in hair. In this article, you will encounter a collection of facts regarding this popular creature of prehistory.
Just One Species of Many
The woolly mammoth is a species that belonged to the genus Mammuthus – in particular, Mammuthus primigenius – but it was not the only kind of mammoth that once roamed the planet. There are actually close to 12 other species of mammoth that lived during the Pleistocene epoch. Just to name a few: Mammuthus trogontherii (the Steppe Mammoth), Mammuthus imperator (the Imperial Mammoth) and Mammuthus columbi (the Columbian Mammoth).
Out of all the other species of mammoth, the woolly variety was not the largest of its kind. For example, Imperial mammoth males weighed more than 10 tons, while some types of the Songhua River mammoth of northern China (called the Mammuthus sungari) was a whopping 15 tons. When comparing the different species, the woolly mammoth was much smaller – only weighing in at 5 to 7 tons.
The first western scientist to study mammoth bones and acknowledge their importance as the remains of an extinct species that was closely related to the elephants was Georges Cuvier. The French scientist first made strides in 1796.
The woolly mammoth is believed to have traveled in family herds, as well as migrate between different food sources throughout the year.
Really Long Tusks
The tusks of a woolly mammoth were extremely long – measuring up to 15 feet in length on the biggest males. This characteristic of the creature was a selected feature linked to the sexuality of the beasts. The males that possessed the longer, curvier tusks were more successful in impressing the ladies when they were trying to mate. Their tusks would help them enjoy more opportunities to sow their royal oats with the female mammoths. The mammoth also used its tusks for protection, to assert itself as dominant amongst other males, as well as for digging in the Ice Age snow in search for grass and other tasty vittles.
Despite some of their larger features, the woolly mammoth did not have large, floppy ears like the modern elephants we tend to compare the mammoth to. Today, elephants use their ears to cool down their bodies, but the woolly mammoth did not have to worry about this. They lived in climates with frigid temperatures that made larger ears a setback rather than an asset. Having smaller ears meant that this part of the body did not experience the consequences of harsh weather conditions.
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