Q: How do you write an article on a Great Woolly Mammoth?
A: First you get a really tall ladder…
While woolly mammoth jokes abound, woolly mammoths themselves have been extinct for over 9,000 years. These large mammals who lived during the last ice age (the Pleistocene Epoch) are ancestors of Indian Elephants. However, their ears were smaller, their tusks were longer, and they were covered in a thick coat of fur (which kept them warm in very cold climates). Their trunks were used similarly to the way elephants do now, for picking up food and other objects and acting as a drinking fountain of a sort. (Mammoth joke break: Why do woolly mammoths have trunks? Because they’d look silly with glove compartments.)
Woolly mammoths were herbivores, and could be anywhere from 9 to over 15 feet tall. Their tusks, some of which were curved, some straight, were actually incisors and were used for protection, for mating rituals, and for digging for food in the snow. And while many will picture them with dinosaurs, woolly mammoths actually lived millions of years after dinosaurs went extinct.
But what caused the woolly mammoth to go the way of the dinosaur? Scientists have discovered that it was multiple things, in fact, which wiped out our large, furry friends. They studied around 450 artifacts, fossils from 1,300 woolly mammoths, and over 1,200 archaeological sites and peatlands in order to determine these factors. With so many data points, they feel fairly confident in their findings.
One of the factors that attributed to the woolly mammoth’s demise was a change in the climate. The mammoths were adapted to cold weather, and when the temperatures began to rise, coniferous forests and wetlands developed, environments to which woolly mammoths weren’t well suited. As they started to die out, scientists believe that humans began to kill off those that remained, resulting in their eventual extinction.
These findings are significant not only for what they tell us about what happened to the mammoths, but for the light they shed on what might happen to endangered animals today. Sadly the changes that are facing animals today are on a much larger scale, with humans encroaching on natural environments all over the world. Hopefully some of what they found will aid scientists in knowing what to do next to help endangered species.
And finally, a woolly mammoth joke for the road:
Q: What’s the best way to get a wild Woolly Mammoth?
A: Get a tame one and then annoy it by telling Woolly Mammoth jokes.