Woolly Mammoths - Mammuthus Primigenius


The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) was a species of mammoth, the common name for the extinct elephant genus Mammuthus. The woolly mammoth was one of the last in a line of mammoth species, beginning with Mammuthus subplanifrons in the early Pliocene. M. primigenius diverged from the steppe mammoth, M. trogontherii, about 200,000 years ago in eastern Asia. Its closest extant relative is the Asian elephant.

The appearance and behaviour of this species are among the best studied of any prehistoric animal because of the discovery of frozen carcasses in Siberia and Alaska, as well as skeletons, teeth, stomach contents, dung, and depiction from life in prehistoric cave paintings. Mammoth remains had long been known in Asia before they became known to Europeans in the 17th century. The origin of these remains was long a matter of debate, and often explained as being remains of legendary creatures. The mammoth was identified as an extinct species of elephant by Georges Cuvier in 1796.

The woolly mammoth was roughly the same size as modern African elephants. Males reached shoulder heights between 2.7 and 3.4 m (9 and 11 ft) and weighed up to 6 tonnes (6.6 short tons). Females averaged 2.62.9 metres (8.59.5 ft) in height and weighed up to 4 tons (4.4 short tons). A newborn calf weighed about 90 kilograms (200 lb). The woolly mammoth was well adapted to the cold environment during the last ice age. It was covered in fur, with an outer covering of long guard hairs and a shorter undercoat. The color of the coat varied from dark to light. The ears and tail were short to minimize frostbite and heat loss. It had long, curved tusks and four molars, which were replaced six times during the lifetime of an individual. Its behavior was similar to that of modern elephants, and it used its tusks and trunk for manipulating objects, fighting, and foraging. The diet of the woolly mammoth was mainly grass and sedges. Individuals could probably reach the age of 60. Its habitat was the mammoth steppe, which stretched across northern Eurasia and North America.

The woolly mammoth coexisted with early humans, who used its bones and tusks for making art, tools, and dwellings, and the species was also hunted for food. It disappeared from its mainland range at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 years ago, most likely through climate change and consequent shrinkage of its habitat, hunting by humans, or a combination of the two. Isolated populations survived on St. Paul Island until 6,400 years ago and Wrangel Island until 4,000 years ago. After its extinction, humans continued using its ivory as a raw material, a tradition that continues today. It has been proposed the species could be recreated through cloning, but this method is as yet infeasible because of the degraded state of the remaining genetic material. Read more




Woolly Mammoths In the News ...





Domestication of dogs may explain mammoth kill sites and success of early modern humans   Science Daily - May 30, 2014
A new analysis of European archaeological sites containing large numbers of dead mammoths and dwellings built with mammoth bones has led to a new interpretation of these sites -- that their abrupt appearance may have been due to early modern humans working with the earliest domesticated dogs to kill the now-extinct mammoth.




Neck ribs in woolly mammoths provide clues about their decline and eventual extinction   PhysOrg - March 25, 2014
Mammals, even the long-necked giraffes and the short-necked dolphins, almost always have seven neck vertebrae (exceptions being sloths, manatees and dugongs), and these vertebrae do not normally possess a rib. Therefore, the presence of a 'cervical rib' (a rib attached to a cervical vertebra) is an unusual event, and is cause for further investigation. A cervical rib itself is relatively harmless, but its development often follows genetic or environmental disturbances during early embryonic development. As a result, cervical ribs in most mammals are strongly associated with stillbirths and multiple congenital abnormalities that negatively impact the lifespan of an individual.




  Mini-mammoths lived on Crete: scientists   PhysOrg - May 9, 2012
'The enamel rings on the Cretan tooth fossil had 3 character features that resembled mammoths, the genus Mammuthus, and, importantly, not the straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon,' says Herridge.




Smallest mammoths found on Crete   BBC - May 9, 2012
The smallest mammoth ever known to have existed roamed the island of Crete millions of years ago, researchers say. Adults were roughly the size of a modern baby elephant, standing over a metre tall at the shoulders. Remains were discovered more than a century ago, but scientists had debated whether the animal was a mammoth or an ancient elephant.




Being Good Moms Couldn't Save the Woolly Mammoth   Science Daily - December 22, 2010
New research from The University of Western Ontario leads investigators to believe that woolly mammoths living north of the Arctic Circle during the Pleistocene Epoch (approx. 150,000 to 40,000 years ago) began weaning infants up to three years later than modern day African elephants due to prolonged hours of darkness. This adapted nursing pattern could have contributed to the prehistoric elephant's eventual extinction.




Climate Change Wiped Out Woolly Mammoths, Saber-Toothed Cats   Live Science - May 24, 2010
Mighty swings in climate played a major role in causing mass extinctions of mammals, such as woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, in the last 50,000 years, researchers now suggest. Between 50,000 and 3,000 years ago, 65 percent of mammal species weighing over 97 pounds (44 kg) went extinct, together with a lesser fraction of small mammals.




How Woolly Mammoths Survived Arctic Cold   Live Science - May 4, 2010
The lumbering, shaggy-haired woolly mammoth once thrived in the frigid Arctic plains despite having originally migrated from a more tropical climate. A new study has found tiny genetic mutations that changed the way oxygen was delivered by its blood could be responsible for its tolerance to the cold climate. The woolly mammoth was an elephantid species and most closely related to today's Asian elephants. It went extinct around 10,000 years ago. But because the mammoth lived in the Arctic, many remains of the species have been found preserved in the permafrost. Ancestors of both the mammoth and Asian elephant originated in Africa around 6.7 million to 7 million years ago and stayed for about 4 million years before moving up into Southern Europe and then farther up into what is now Siberia and the northern plains of Canada around a million years later.




Mammoths had 'anti-freeze blood', gene study finds   BBC - May 3, 2010
Scientists have discovered genetic mutations that allowed woolly mammoths to survive freezing temperatures. Nature Genetics reports that scientists "resurrected" a mammoth blood protein to come to their finding. This protein, known as haemoglobin, is found in red blood cells, where it binds to and carries oxygen. The team found that mammoths possessed a genetic adaptation allowing their haemoglobin to release oxygen into the body even at low temperatures. The ability of haemoglobin to release oxygen to the body's tissues is generally inhibited by the cold.




Mammoths Were Alive More Recently Than Thought   Live Science - December 16, 2009

Woolly mammoths and other large beasts in North America may not have gone extinct as long ago as previously thought. The new view that pockets of beasts survived to as recently as 7,600 years ago, rather than the previous end times mark of 12,000 years ago is supported by DNA evidence found in a few pinches of dirt. After plucking ancient DNA from frozen soil in central Alaska, researchers uncovered "genetic fossils" of both mammoths and horses locked in permafrost samples dated to between 10,500 and 7,600 years ago.




Lost Giants: Did Mammoths Vanish Before, During and After Humans Arrived?   Scientific American - December 15, 2009
Before humans arrived, the Americas were home to woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and other behemoths, an array of megafauna more impressive than even Africa boasts today. Researchers have advanced several theories to explain what did them in and when the event occurred. A series of discoveries announced in the past four weeks, at first glance apparently contradictory, adds fresh details to the mystery of this mass extinction.




Mammoth dung unravels extinction   BBC - November 19, 2009

Mammoth dung has proved to be a source of prehistoric information, helping scientists unravel the mystery of what caused the great mammals to die out. An examination of a fungus that is found in the ancient dung and preserved in lake sediments has helped build a picture of what happened to the beasts. The study sheds light on the ecological consequences of the extinction and the role that humans may have played in it.




Climate Events Let Ice Age Mammoths Pass Far Below 40 Degrees North Latitude   Science Daily - October 27, 2009
Europe's southern-most skeletal remains of a mammoth were unearthed in a moor on the 37 degree N latitude. This is considerably south of the inhospitable habitat than one usually imagines for mammoths, and for the characteristically dry and cold climate that prevailed during the ice ages in the north of Eurasia.




Baby woolly mammoth provides secrets of survival in Ice Age   Telegraph.co.uk - October 5, 2009

A baby woolly mammoth which spent 40,000 years frozen in the Siberian permafrost, has provided scientists with clues about how the species survived during the Ice Age.




Mammoths survived late in Britain   BBC - June 18, 2009

Woolly mammoths lived in Britain as recently as 14,000 years ago, according to new radiocarbon dating evidence. Dr Adrian Lister obtained new dates for mammoth bones unearthed in the English county of Shropshire in 1986. His study in the Geological Journal shows the great beasts remained part of Britain's wildlife for much longer than had previously been supposed. Mammoths may finally have died out when forests encroached on the grassland habitats they favored for grazing. The radiocarbon results from the adult male and four juvenile mammoths from Condover, Shropshire, reveal that the great beasts were in Britain more than 6,000 years longer than had previously been thought.




Mobile DNA elements in woolly mammoth genome give new clues to mammalian evolution   PhysOrg - June 8, 2009
The woolly mammoth died out several thousand years ago, but the genetic material they left behind is yielding new clues about the evolution of mammals. In a study published online in Genome Research, scientists have analyzed the mammoth genome looking for mobile DNA elements, revealing new insights into how some of these elements arose in mammals and shaped the genome of an animal headed for extinction.




Mammoths roasted in prehistoric barbecue pit   MSNBC - June 3, 2009

Central Europe's prehistoric people would likely have been amused by today's hand-sized hamburgers and hot dogs, since archaeologists have just uncovered a 29,000 B.C. well-equipped kitchen where roasted gigantic mammoth was one of the last meals served. The site, called Pavlov VI in the Czech Republic near the Austrian and Slovak Republic borders, provides a homespun look at the rich culture of some of Europe's first anatomically modern humans. While contemporaneous populations near this region seemed to prefer reindeer meat, the Gravettian residents of this living complex, described in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity, appeared to seek out more super-sized fare.




A million-year-old mammoth skeleton found in Serbia: report   PhysOrg - June 3, 2009
A woman works on an exhibit at a mammoth show. A finely preserved skeleton of a mammoth, believed to be one million years old, was uncovered near an archaeological site in eastern Serbia. The skeleton was uncovered during ongoing excavations of the site at Viminacium, a Roman military settlement on the Danube river, said archaeologist Miomir Korac.




Mammoth Bones Found in San Diego   Live Science - February 5, 2009

The skull and other remains from an adult mammoth, a mega-mammal that went extinct in the last Ice Age, were unearthed this week at a construction site in downtown San Diego. The bones, including a tusk, skull and foot bones, belonged to an adult Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi), according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The mammoth's tusk was slightly more than 10 feet (3 meters) in length.




Mammoth Genome Decoded -- Clones on the Way?    National Geographic - November 20, 2008

Using hairs from woolly mammoths, scientists have sequenced an extensive genome of these elephant cousins, a new report says. The development brings researchers a step closer to "resurrecting" the extinct species via cloning, though so many technical obstacles stand in the way that some experts doubt it could ever happen.




Mammoth's genome pieced together    BBC - November 20, 2008

A US-Russian team of researchers has pieced together most of the genome of a woolly mammoth, Nature journal reports. The experts extracted DNA from samples of mammoth hair to reconstruct the genetic sequence of this Ice Age beast. Though some stretches are missing, the researchers estimate that the genome is roughly 80% complete. The work could provide insights into the extinction of the mammoth and also resurrects questions about the viability of cloning long-dead species. The scientists were aided in their task by the fact that several deep-frozen carcasses of woolly mammoths have been dug out of the permafrost in Siberia. These conditions are ideal for the preservation of hair, which is a preferred source for the extraction of ancient DNA.




Siberian Woolly Mammoths Had North American Blood National Geographic - September 5, 2008
Siberia's last woolly mammoths descended from North American not exclusively Eurasian stock, according to new research. Scientists studying DNA from the remains of 160 of the animals found the ancient beasts migrated back and forth between Eurasia and Alaska several times over hundreds of thousands of years. Cousins of present-day elephants (learn more), woolly mammoths are believed to have descended from African mammoths that traveled north through Eurasia and grew "woolly" long hair to survive the harsh climate of Siberia.




Mammoth Mystery: The Beasts' Final Years Live Science - September 4, 2008
Woolly mammoths' last stand before extinction in Siberia wasn't made by natives - rather, the beasts had American roots, researchers have discovered. Woolly mammoths once roamed the Earth for more than a half-million years, ranging from Europe to Asia to North America. These Ice Age giants vanished from mainland Siberia by 9,000 years ago, although mammoths survived on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean until roughly 3,700 years ago.




Mammoths moved 'out of America' BBC - September 4, 2008
Scientists have discovered that the last Siberian woolly mammoths may have originated in North America. Their research in the journal Current Biology represents the largest study of ancient woolly mammoth DNA. The scientists also question the direct role of climate change in the eventual demise of these large beasts. They believe that woolly mammoths survived through the period when the ice sheets were at their maximum, while other Ice Age mammals "crashed out". The iconic Ice Age woolly mammoth - Mammuthus primigenius - roamed through mainland Eurasia and North America until about 10,000 years ago. Previous studies had hinted that the last mammoths left in Siberia were not natives - but immigrants from North America. However, more evidence was required to strengthen the case for this "out of America" theory.




France: Extremely 'Rare' mammoth skull discovered BBC - September 2, 2008

The "extremely rare" fossilized skull of a steppe mammoth has been unearthed in southern France. The discovery in the Auvergne region could shed much needed light on the evolution of these mighty beasts. Many isolated teeth of steppe mammoth have been found, but only a handful of skeletons exist; and in these surviving specimens, the skull is rarely intact. Palaeontologists Frederic Lacombat and Dick Mol describe this skull specimen as being well preserved. Mr Lacombat, from Crozatier Museum in nearby Le Puy-en-Velay, and Mr Mol, from the Museum of Natural History in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said the fossil belongs to a male steppe mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii) that stood about 3.7m (12ft) tall and lived about 400,000 years ago, during Middle Pleistocene times.




Woolly Mammoth Gene Study Changes Extinction Theory Science Daily - June 12, 2008

A large genetic study of the extinct woolly mammoth has revealed that the species was not one large homogenous group, as scientists previously had assumed, and that it did not have much genetic diversity. The discovery is particularly interesting because it rules out human hunting as a contributing factor, leaving climate change and disease as the most probable causes of extinction.




Climate Change, Then Humans, Drove Mammoths Extinct National Geographic - April 1, 2008
Ancient climate change cornered the woolly mammoth into a shrinking habitat, but humans delivered the final blow by hunting the species into extinction, a new study suggests. Climate change and hunting have long been blamed for forcing the mammoth into decline at the end of the Pleistocene era about 10,000 years ago. The last mammoth died out 4,000 years ago, experts estimate. But this study marks the first time that the massive, shaggy-haired animal's demise has been explained using combined population and climate change modeling, researchers say.




Mammoth hair produces DNA bounty BBC - September 28, 2007

A rapid technique for isolating DNA in hair has yielded a mass of new information about woolly mammoths. An international research team says the process should work on other extinct animals, allowing their genetics to be studied in detail for the first time. The mammoth DNA was taken from the hair shaft which was long thought to be a poor source for the "life molecule". But the group tells Science magazine that the shaft's keratin material slows degradation and limits contamination.




Gene reveals mammoth coat color BBC - July 6, 2006

The coat color of mammoths that roamed the Earth thousands of years ago has been determined by scientists. Some of the curly tusked animals would have sported dark brown coats, while others had pale ginger or blond hair. The information was extracted from a 43,000-year-old woolly mammoth bone from Siberia using the latest genetic techniques. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers said a gene called Mc1r was controlling the beasts' coat colors. This gene is responsible for hair-color in some modern mammals, too. In humans, reduced activity of the Mc1r gene causes red hair, while in dogs, mice and horses it results in yellow hair.




Complete mammoth skeleton found in Siberia BBC - May 23, 2006
Fishermen in Siberia have discovered the complete skeleton of a mammoth - a find which Russian experts have described as very rare. The remains appeared when flood waters receded in Russia's Krasnoyarsk region. The mammoth's backbone, skull, teeth and tusks all survived intact. It appears to have died aged about 50. Mammoths lived in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America between about 1.6 million years ago and 10,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene epoch. Alexander Kerzhayev, deputy director of the museum in the small town of Novoselovo, says it is the most significant find he can remember.




Scientists Sequence Complete Genome of Woolly Mammoth BBC - February 8, 2006
Scientists have completed the oldest mitochondrial genome sequence from the 33,000-year-old remains of a woolly mammoth; results show mammoths and Asian elephants are a sister species that diverged soon a fter their common ancestor split from the lineage of the African elephant.




Woolly Mammoth Resurrection, "Jurassic Park" Planned National Geographic - April 8, 2005

A team of Japanese genetic scientists aims to bring woolly mammoths back to life and create a Jurassic Park-style refuge for resurrected species. The effort has garnered new attention as a frozen mammoth is drawing crowds at the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Japan. The team of scientists, which is not associated with the exhibit, wants to do more than just put a carcass on display. They aim to revive the Ice Age plant-eaters, 10,000 years after they went extinct.




Complete mammoth skull unearthed in England BBC - January 20, 2004

A complete mammoth skull has been unearthed in southern England, only the second to be found in Britain. The specimen was discovered in a gravel pit in the Cotswolds and is estimated to be about 50,000 years old. The only other complete specimen found in the UK is displayed in the Natural History Museum in London. Scientists will attempt to date the mammoth skull using radiocarbon methods and will also use it to study the evolutionary history of mammoths. The skull was found on Sunday 11 January by Dr Neville Hollingworth, a palaeontologist who works at the Natural Environment Research Council, and Dr Mark O'Dell, of science firm QinetiQ.




Woolly Mammoth Study Shows Complexity of Evolution National Geographic - November 1, 2001
The woolly mammoth is the rock star of Ice Age mammals. It's been immortalized in Stone Age cave paintings and carvings and in museum displays as the quintessential Ice Age animal. How did this Ice Age icon evolve from an elephant-type species grazing in Africa to a highly specialized Arctic dweller? Two researchers studying the fossil record of European and Siberian mammoths have traced the evolution of the woolly mammoth. The research has raised a few questions about current evolutionary theories.




When mammoths roamed England BBC - November 2, 2001

A clash of the mammoths could have taken place in what is now southern England thousands of years ago. Fossils found in Buckinghamshire and Norfolk suggest that two types of mammoth lived side-by-side in prehistoric times. Scientists believe herds of more advanced mammoths moving south from Siberia encountered primitive European ones. The newcomers were better adapted to a cold climate and eventually outbred their contemporaries. But the European mammoths might have interbred with the Siberian invaders, leaving their mark in the gene pool.







Mastodon

Mastodons or Mastodonts (meaning "nipple-teeth") are members of the extinct genus Mammut of the order Proboscidea and form the family Mammutidae; they resembled, but were distinct from, the woolly mammoth which belongs to the family Elephantidae. Mastodons were browsers and mammoths were grazers.

The American mastodon (Mammut americanum) lived in North America. Mastodons are thought to have first appeared almost four million years ago and became extinct about 10,000 years ago, at the same time as most other Pleistocene megafauna. Though their habitat spanned a large territory, mastodons were most common in the Ice age spruce forests of the eastern United States, as well as in warmer lowland environments.

Their remains have been found as far as 300 kilometers offshore in the northeastern United States, in areas that were dry land during the low sea level stand of the last ice age. There have been, however, findings of mastodon fossils in South America and also on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. Mastodon fossils have been found in Stewiack, Nova Scotia, Canada, and also were discovered north of Fort Wayne, Indiana, resulting in the "Mastodons" being chosen as the mascot for athletic teams at Indiana-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW) by the students. The uncovered fossils are displayed inside Kettler Hall on the IPFW campus.

While mastodons were furry like woolly mammoths, and similar in height at roughly three meters at the shoulder, the resemblance was superficial. They differed from mammoths primarily in the blunt, conical shape of their teeth, which were more suited to chewing leaves than the high-crowned teeth mammoths used for grazing; the name mastodon means mastoid teeth, and is also an obsolete name for their genus. Their skulls were larger and flatter than those of mammoths, while their skeleton was stockier and more robust.

Mastodons also seem to have lacked the undercoat characteristic of mammoths. The tusks of the mastodon sometimes exceeded five meters in length, and were nearly horizontal, in contrast with the more curved mammoth tusks. Young males had vestigial lower tusks that were lost in adulthood. The tusks were probably used to break branches and twigs although some evidence suggests males may have used them in mating challenges; one tusk is often shorter than the other, suggesting that, like humans, mastodons may have had laterality.

Examination of fossilized tusks revealed a series of regularly spaced shallow pits on the underside of the tusks. Microscopic examination showed damage to the dentin under the pits. It is theorized that the damage was caused when the males were fighting over mating rights. The curved shape of the tusks would have forced them downward with each blow, causing damage to the newly forming ivory at the base of the tusk. The regularity of the damage in the growth patterns of the tusks indicates that this was an annual occurrence, probably occurring during the spring and early summer.

The meat of mastodons was a food source for early humans. Archaeologists are still trying to determine what role, if any, the early human settlers of North America played in the extinction of the mastodon. Recent studies by scientists in Ohio and New York concluded that tuberculosis may have been partly responsible for the extinction of the Mastodon 10,000 years ago. Read more ...


Stegomastodon Skull Unearthed   Live Science - June 19, 2014

Elephant Butte Lake State Park in New Mexico is named for an elephant-shaped hill on the north side of the park, but now the name seems even more appropriate after a bachelor party hiking there discovered a 3-million-year-old stegomastodon skull - the prehistoric ancestor of mammoths and elephants. Members of the bachelor party noticed a bone sticking a couple inches out of the sand by the Rio Grande River earlier this month, the Telegraph reported. The men dug up what turned out to be an enormous skull and sent photos to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Paleontologists who arrived on the scene identified the remains as a stegomastodon skull.


Greek mastodon find 'spectacular' BBC - July 24, 2007

The remains of a prehistoric mastodon - a mammoth-like animal - have been found in northern Greece, including intact long tusks. A Dutch scientist at the site, Dick Mol, says the find near Grevena should help explain why mastodons died out in Europe two to three million years ago.




PALEONTOLOGY INDEX


ICE INDEX


WOOLLY MAMMOTHS


ANTARCTICA


ARTIC


THEORY OF CRUSTAL DISPLACEMENT


PHYSICAL SCIENCES INDEX


PLANET EARTH INDEX


A-Z


CRYSTALINKS HOME PAGE


PSYCHIC READING WITH ELLIE


2012 THE ALCHEMY OF TIME