Week 19: Mammoth tooth

What animal has teeth like this? When did they live?

What can we know from the shape of this tooth?


Mammoth tooth

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Answers:

What animal has teeth like this? When did they live?

This is a molar from a mammoth, a species that lived from about 55 million years ago to about 4500 years ago, when the last living mammoths, on Wrangel Island in the remote arctic, died out. They are the ancestors of modern elephants, and share many similar characteristics. Mammoths were about as tall as the tallest modern elephants, standing around 13 feet at the shoulder. But mammoth tusks were larger and more dramatically curved, growing to about 16 feet in length.

What can we know from the shape of this tooth?

From the flatness of this molar, we can tell that their diet was mostly vegetation, much like their descendants, the Asian elephants. Most mammoths ate grasses, which because they were so widely available allowed them to move around with great freedom. Some mammoths were also known to have eaten trees and cacti!