mammoth, name for several large prehistoric relatives (genus Mammuthus) of modern elephants which ranged over Eurasia and North America in the Pleistocene epoch. The shoulder height of the Siberian, or woolly, mammoth, which roamed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, was about 9 ft (2.7 m), and that of the imperial mammoth of the North American Great Plains was up to 131⁄2 ft (4.1 m). Mammoths were covered by a long, shaggy, black outer coat and a dense, woolly undercoat. They had complex, many-ridged molar teeth; long, slender upward-curved tusks; and a long trunk. Ivory hunters have collected their tusks for centuries (and continue to collect them) in Siberia, where tens of thousands have been discovered; it is from these and from the drawings left by the Cro-Magnon people in the caves of S France that the mammoth's appearance is known. Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) people hunted mammoths, as is evidenced by remains of the animals found together with tools, and may have contributed to their extinction. The last population, on Wrangel Island, Russia, in the Arctic, survived until c.5,000 years ago. Mammoths are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Proboscidea, family Elephantidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology