Woolly Mammoth


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Woolly Mammoth

 

(Mammuthusprimigenius), an extinct mammal of the family Elephantidae that inhabited Europe, northern Asia, and North America in the second half of the Pleistocene. The woolly mammoth became extinct approximately 10,000 years ago. Its size (height, 2.5-3.5 m) did not exceed that of living elephants, and it weighed up to 7 tons. The body was covered with thick hair and had a thick undercoat. The animal fed on grass and scrub. During the winter it obtained these from beneath the snow by means of its complexly curved tusks. The molars, which had numerous thin dentin-enamel plates, were well adapted for grinding coarse food.

The woolly mammoth was a contemporary of Lower Paleolithic man, as is evidenced by the finds of mammoth bones, often with traces of working, at Paleolithic sites. Paintings and sculptures of the mammoth by ancient man have also been found. More than 40 mammoth carcasses, preserved in permanently frozen ground, have been discovered in northern Siberia and Alaska. The most complete specimen was excavated in 1901-02 on the bank of the Berezovka River (a tributary of the Kolyma) by an expedition of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. It was subjected to anatomical, histological, and biochemical analysis; the remains of food found in its mouth and stomach were also analyzed. The skeleton and a stuffed version of the mammoth are on display in the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Leningrad.

The remains of woolly mammoths serve as index fossils in determining the geologic age of Anthropogene continental deposits. Mammoth tusks found in permafrost layers are used for making art objects.

REFERENCES

Illarionov, V. T. Mamont: K istorii ego izucheniia v SSSR. Gorky, 1940.
Osnovy paleontologii: Mlekopitaiushchie. Moscow, 1962.
Augusta, J., and Z. Burian. Kniga o mamontakh. Prague, 1962.
Garutt, V. E. Das Mammut. Mammuthus primigenius (Blumenbach). Wittenberg (Lutherstadt), 1964.

V. E. GARUTT

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