Fossil Mammoth Bone
Age - 15,000 - 40,000 Years Old
Discovered - Florida
** The Woolly Mammoth **
The woolly mammoth is a species of mammoth that lived during the Pleistocene until its extinction in the Holocene epoch. It was one of the last in a line of mammoth species, beginning with Mammuthus subplanifrons in the early Pliocene. The woolly mammoth began to diverge from the steppe mammoth about 800,000 years ago in East Asia. Its closest extant relative is the Asian elephant. DNA studies show that the Columbian mammoth was a hybrid between woolly mammoths and another lineage descended from steppe mammoths. The appearance and behaviour of this species are among the best studied of any prehistoric animal because of the discovery of frozen carcasses in Siberia and Alaska, as well as skeletons, teeth, stomach contents, dung, and depiction from life in prehistoric cave paintings. Mammoth remains had long been known in Asia before they became known to Europeans in the 17th century. The origin of these remains was long a matter of debate, and often explained as being remains of legendary creatures. The mammoth was identified as an extinct species of elephant by Georges Cuvier in 1796.
** Woolly Mammoth Lifespan **
The lifespan of mammals is related to their size, and since modern elephants can reach the age of 60 years, the same is thought to be true for woolly mammoths, which were of a similar size. The age of a mammoth can be roughly determined by counting the growth rings of its tusks when viewed in cross section, but this does not account for its early years, as these are represented by the tips of the tusks, which are usually worn away. In the remaining part of the tusk, each major line represents a year, and weekly and daily ones can be found in between. Dark bands correspond to summers, so determining the season in which a mammoth died is possible. The growth of the tusks slowed when foraging became harder, for example during winter, during disease, or when a male was banished from the herd (male elephants live with their herds until about the age of 10). Mammoth tusks dating to the harshest period of the last glaciation 25–20,000 years ago show slower growth rates.
** Extinction **
Most woolly mammoth populations disappeared during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, alongside most of the Pleistocene megafauna (including the Columbian mammoth). This extinction formed part of the Quaternary extinction event, which began 40,000 years ago and peaked between 14,000 and 11,500 years ago. Scientists are divided over whether hunting or climate change, which led to the shrinkage of its habitat, was the main factor that contributed to the extinction of the woolly mammoth, or whether it was due to a combination of the two. Whatever the cause, large mammals are generally more vulnerable than smaller ones due to their smaller population size and low reproduction rates. Different woolly mammoth populations did not die out simultaneously across their range, but gradually became extinct over time. Most populations disappeared between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago. The last mainland population existed in the Kyttyk Peninsula of Siberia 9,650 years ago. A small population of woolly mammoths survived on St. Paul Island, Alaska, well into the Holocene with the most recently published date of extinction being 5,600 years B.P. The last known population remained on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean until 4,000 years ago, well into the start of human civilization and concurrent with the construction of the Great Pyramid of ancient Egypt.
Fossil Mammoth Bone
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