Mastodon and mammoth
Thousands of years ago some elephants wore heavy fur coats. Actually, the mammoth was an ancestor of the modern elephant. And mastodons were distant relatives of the mammoth.
Scientists have found many frozen mammoth bodies, especially in the icy area of Russia, Siberia. The animals died out at the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago.
Mastodons appeared about 20 million years ago. They were smaller than mammoths. The legs were short, massive, and like pillars. Mastodons were covered with long, reddish brown hair.
Mammoths were the size of modern elephants. They had small ears and very long tusks. Although they were large creatures, they fed on plants. They ate willow, fir, and the leaves from bushes. When their stomach contents were examined many different kinds of leaves were found.
Early Native Americans hunted both mammoths and mastodons.
Early humans made paintings of some of the animals on the walls of caves in Europe.
Mammoths first appeared in Africa and then spread through Europe and Asia. The woolly mammoth was one of two mammoth species that migrated across the land bridge from Siberia to North America.
During the lower sea-levels of the glacial periods, this elephant was able to reach Malta, Cyprus, Crete and Sardinia. With the rise of sea level as the glaciers melted in the interglacial periods, these areas became isolated as islands in the Mediterranean sea.
Wooly mammoth were really small. They were like pygmy hippopotamuses or pigs. They grew larger as new species evolved over a long period of time. One of the largest elephants was the imperial mammoth which measured about 13 feet at the shoulder. The woolly mammoth was about 10 feet tall.
Scientists think that the mastodon and the mammoth vanished because the glaciers of the Ice Age destroyed much of the vegetation they relied on for food.
We know about prehistoric animals because of the fossil remains. In 1999, a 23-ton block of ice, containing a fully preserved 23,000 year-old male woolly mammoth, was excavated from the permafrost of the Siberian tundra.