Mammoths are close relative of modern day elephants. Mammoths are extinct species and were characterized by long curved tusks and a covering of long hair. Like their present day relatives, mammoths were quite large and in today’s modern English, the word mammoth is used as an adjective meaning huge or large. The largest mammoth species are known to have reached a height of about five meters at the shoulder and would probably weigh about six to eight tones. However, majority of mammoth species were only about the size of the modern Asian elephant. Fossils belonging to species of dwarf mammoths have been discovered at the Mediterranean islands and on the Californian Channel islands. There is also evidence to suggest that the mammoths inhabited the Arctic Circle.
Going per the studies of their close relatives, mammoths could have had a gestation period of about 22 months resulting in birth of a single calf. Their social structure could as well have been the same as that of Asian and African elephants in which females live in herds led by a matriarch while bulls enjoyed solitary lives.
About 150 million mammoth remains are believed to be buried beneath Russia’s Siberian permafrost. Some of these remains are totally frozen while others are in pieces of tusks, bones, wool and tissue form less than a kilometer below the ground. Most mammoth species are believed to have died out at around the time of the last glacial retreat in line with the mass extinction of the megafauna in the Americas and the northern Eurasia. The mechanism for the extinction of the mammoths is yet to be agreed upon. Whether they died out from adverse climatic conditions or due to over hunting by man is still controversial. More theories suggest that the mammoths may have fallen victims of an infectious disease.
Levy, S., (2006). Clashing with titans. Bioscience 56(4): 292-298.