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Fossil Picture Gallery


The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) until recently lived throughout the tundra regions of Eurasia and North America. (more below)
Their Ice Age remains are widespread
Photo (c) 2005 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy).
Woolly mammoths followed the advances and retreats of the late Ice Age glaciers, thus their fossils are found over quite a large area and are commonly found in excavations. Early human artists depicted living mammoths on their cave walls and presumably elsewhere.

Woolly mammoths were as large as the modern elephant, with the addition of thick fur and a layer of fat that helped them endure the cold. The skull held four massive molar teeth, one on each side of the upper and lower jaw. With these the woolly mammoth could chew the dry grasses of the periglacial plains, and its huge, curving tusks were useful in clearing snow off the vegetation.

Woolly mammoths had few natural enemies—humans were one of them—but those combined with rapid climate change drove the species to extinction just at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, about 10,000 years ago. Recently a dwarf species of mammoth was found to have survived on Wrangel Island, off the Siberian coast, until less than 4,000 years ago. That's its skeleton in the lower right of the photo. It was about the size of a bear. This specimen is in the Lindsay Wildlife Museum.

Mastodons are a slightly more ancient type of animal related to mammoths. They were adapted to life in shrublands and forests, like the modern elephant.

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