Scientific name: Mammuthus primigenius
Height: Up to approximately 3.5 metres at the shoulder
Weight: Up to six to eight tons
Other names: Tundra mammoth, earth stag
Closest cousins: Columbian mammoth, Jefferson mammoth
Closest living relative: Asian elephant
Mammoth fossils have been discovered on every continent except Australia, South America and Antarctica.
Appearance: Similar to modern elephants
The woolly mammoth stood about as tall as an Asian elephant. Its skull was also narrower than that of modern elephants; in addition, its ears were smaller and its tail shorter, both of which were adaptations to extreme cold. Woolly mammoths had a full coat of fur consisting of long, coarse exterior hair and a short, dense layer underneath.
Longevity: 60 – 80 years
Mammoths usually died after their last set of teeth wore away, usually at around 60 to 80 years.
Mammoths consumed about 225 kilograms of plants, grasses, aquatic shrubs and trees daily. They used the tip of their sensitive trunks to pick and eat delicate buds, flowers and shorter grasses. Mammoths had four giant, shoe box-sized teeth — two upper and two lower. They grew six sets of teeth over a lifetime and typically died when their last set of teeth lost the ability to grind up vegetation.
Based on observations of modern elephants, it is thought that female mammoths did not become sexually mature until they were about 15 years old and had a gestation period of 22 months, which produced a single calf. Their social structure was probably the same as that of African and Asian elephants, with females living in herds headed by a matriarch, and bulls leading solitary lives or forming loose groups once they reached sexual maturity.
Specialised adaptations: Tusks, thick skin, frost-resistant coats, short tails and small ears
Woolly mammoths probably used their tusks to brush away snow in search of food, to deter potential predators, and to attract mates. Mammoths had thick skin that secreted an oily substance that covered their long coats and insulated them from the cold. They also evolved smaller ears and shorter tails to conserve heat.
Predators: Large ice age carnivores; humans
Young or sick woolly mammoths were probably at risk from attacks by sabre-toothed cats and other large ice age predators. Humans migrated into woolly mammoth habitats about 40,000 years ago and began hunting them for their meat, bones and skin. It is still a matter of debate whether or not humans hunted the woolly mammoth to extinction.