Common name for several extinct species of the elephant family.
Mammoths had long, recurved tusks, reaching a length of about 3.2 m (about 10.5 ft), a shaggy covering of long, thick hair, and a prominent hump on the back.
The American mammoth, Mammuthus imperator, is the largest species as yet identified; it reached a height of about 4.3 m (about 14 ft). The woolly mammoth (also called the tundra mammoth), Mammuthus primigenius, of Siberia, was about the size of the modern Indian elephant; a complete specimen of this animal was first disinterred near the mouth of the Lena River in Siberia in 1806.
The woolly mammoth disappeared from most of its range at the end of the Pleistocene, but on Wrangel Island it survived until 1650 BC. However, due to limited food supply, they were much smaller in size than typical mammoths.
Mammoths lived in cold climates, moving northward as the glaciers of the Ice Age receded. They existed in North America, Europe, and Asia during the Pleistocene epoch. Drawings and sculpture depicting mammoths have been found in the Cro-Magnon caves of France. In northern Siberia, complete mammoths have been found preserved in ice sometimes to the degree that tiny amounts of DNA have been recovered.
Have mammoths gone completely extinct? Occasional claims that the woolly mammoth is not actually extinct, and that small isolated herds might survive in the vast and sparsely inhabited frozen tundra areas of the world have been put forward. Alleged sightings of living mammoths have been reported in remote areas of Alaska, Northern Canada and Siberia.
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