Article: Were Mammoths Really Huge and Scary? Print

Ten Facts and Myth-busters That May Surprise You

By: Kevin Cash

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Did you know that scientists know more about the Mammoth (commonly referred to as the Woolly Mammoth) than any other prehistoric animal? Or, that this magnificent creature wasn’t really mammoth in size or a human predator? Here are 10 facts and myth-busters about this long extinct, very distant relative of the modern-day elephant.

1. French zoologist Georges Cuvier first identified the Woolly Mammoth as an extinct species of the elephant in 1796.

2. The Woolly Mammoth was hardly “mammoth” in size. While one species grew up to 15 feet tall, most were about the size of modern African elephants – with a shoulder height of roughly 10 feet, and weighing around 6 tons.

3. Humans preyed on mammoths for their meat and hides; not the other way around. The Woolly Mammoth was a herbivore, not a carnivore.

3. The ears of a woolly mammoth were much shorter than the elephant. Like their thick coat of foot-long fur and four inches of insulating fat, their 12-inch ears – versus the elephant’s 71-inch ears – were an evolutionary adaptation to the extremely cold, Arctic environments in which they lived, including North America during the Ice Age.

4. The tusks of the Woolly Mammoth could reach up to 15 feet long, which were theoretically used to fight, defend, and push away ice and snow. Humans used the tusks to create art objects, shelters, tools, furniture and even burials.

5. Similar to the rings on a tree, scientists can determine the age and health of a Woolly Mammoth by the rings on its tusks.

6. Mammoth ivory tusks are legal; elephant’s are not. In fact, the hunt is on for woolly mammoth tusks in Arctic Siberia, which are worth around $400 per pound.

7. There is no definitive answer as to why mammoths became extinct, though most scientists believe it was due to climate change. The possibility exists that scientists could use the mammoth’s genetic material to one day clone and recreate the animal. Wow!

8. Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean was the last known home of about 500-1,000 Woolly Mammoths until just before 1700 BC, when they fully became extinct. That was only 4,000

9. Even a kid can discover a preserved mammoth.  In September 2012, an 11-year- old Russian boy happened upon an extremely well-preserved woolly mammoth carcass while walking his dog.

10. You can discover Mammoth bones and other pre-historic fossils found in the 1800s by Shaker farmers at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a national historic landmark destination just outside of Lexington, Kentucky.

Want to see mammoth bones up close? Take a trip to Shaker Village and see them in person.

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