Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Scientific classification

A mammoth is any of a number of an extinct genus of elephant, often with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair. They inhabited the northern regions of the world, in Europe, northern Asia, and North America.

Many types of mammoth lived in temperate and northern climes: the frozen remains of woolly mammoths have been found in the northern parts of Siberia.

Frozen mammoth corpses, when removed from the ice, often prove remarkably fresh: dogs accompanying the finders sometimes ate the flesh. There have been proposals to clone freshly defrosted mammoths in order to revive the species.

In addition to occasional frozen mammoths, large amounts of mammoth ivory were found in Siberia, and were an article of trade for many centuries.

It is a common misconception that mammoths were much larger than modern elephants, an error that has led to "mammoth" being used as a adjective meaning "very big". The largest known species, the Imperial Mammoth of California, reached heights of at least 4 meters at the shoulder. However, most species of mammoth were about as large as a modern Indian elephant, and fossils of a species of dwarf mammoth have been found on remote islands off the east coast of Siberia.

The mammoths diverged from the Asian elephants after the latter group split from the African elephants, meaning that the mammoths were in fact more closely related to the modern Indian elephant than the African elephant is. Since there is a known case in which an Indian elephant and an African elephant have produced a live offspring, it has been theorised that if mammoths were still alive today, they would be able to interbreed with Indian elephants, and this has led to the idea that perhaps a mammoth-like beast could be recreated by taking genetic material from a frozen mammoth and combining it with that from a modern Indian elephant. However, not enough genetic material has been found in frozen mammoths for this to be attempted [1].

See also: Mastodon

External link