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The steppe mammoth, the biggest mammoth of the prehistoric world

Updated on April 16, 2015
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The steppe mammoth

According to scientists, the steppe mammoth was most likely envolved from the Southern mammoth. It is the big ancestor of the woolly mammoth. This makes the steppe mammoth a "transition specie" of the two mammoths. The prehistoric mammal envolved quickly due to evolution. This was necessary because of the sudden ice age, which appeared during its short existence. The amount of energy his body needed, was unable to compete with the coldness. Its fossiles are rare, this is caused by the difficult identification process and the short life span of the specie.


Latin names

In Latin, he is called the "Mammuthus trogontherii" or "Mammuthus armeniacus". "Mammuthus trogontherii" is most often used in the literature. During its classification, researchers noticed the similiarity between the two species. They are most likely the same kind of mammoth. Which one of the two nicknames is being used, depends on where the fossile has been found. Scientists discovered that the mammal lived in Europe and Asia. The nickname "Mammuthus armeniacus" is most commonly used for fossils being found in Asia. "Mammuthus trogontherii" is used for the European fossiles. His fossils can be identified by its huge tusks.


The enormous tusks of the steppe mammoth

Its tusks could reach a maximum size of 15 foot (5 meters). This is a huge difference compared to the tusks of elephants. The ones African elephants have, can reach a length of "only" three meters. Ivory keeps growing during the life of an elephant. The pace of the growth can vary per individual. Due this variance, scientists are unable to use this size to predict its age. Researchers noticed that huge tusks can cause problems. Mammoths probably had the same dilemma as elephants have. The size of its tusk could cause difficulties for the mammoth to eat. Another mayor problem, was the huge weight of the tusks. It could disturb the mammoth's mobility capabilities. How much it affected its movement, was partly depending on its gender.


Gender identification by examination of the tusks

The looks of the tusks depended on its gender. Male tusks were thicker and curved. They were also longer compared to the tusks of females. Once they were curved enough, they could point to its own body. Scientists agreed that it impressed female mammoths. Due the size of the tusks, male mammoths were the heaviest. The size and weight of the mammoth The steppe mammoth is the biggest mammoth ever. It is also one of the biggest mammals in history. It could reach 15 foot (5 meters) in height. Its maximum length was 30 foot (10 meters), about 6 foot (two meters) longer than the average adult African elephant. An adult steppe mammoth could reach a weight of eight ton. This is a thousand kilograms more than African elephants. The prehistoric mammal was even heavier than the tyrannosaurus rex. This dinosaur existed 64 million years earlier. They could impossible have crossed each other. The size of the mammoth protected himself from predators. The only downside was the amount of energy, which was needed to sustain his body temperature.


The energy needs of the mammoth

The stepe mammoth needed an environment with lots of vegetation, in order to survive. The steppe environment was an cold place. It had to search for food on a daily basis, to fulfill the energy needs of its body. Most of the time, he was found grazing on the steppe fields. Different kinds of strong grass species could be found. The bare landscape hardly had any trees. The steppe mammoth was a herbivore. His diet contained only grass and plants. This has been discovered by scientific researchers. His jaws were shaped perfectly to eat plants. His diet is comparable to the diet of elephants. This was no problem for the mammoth, till the amount of available food changed dramatically.


The effects of climate changes

About 400 thousand years ago, a sudden ice age emerged. The environment of the prehistoric animals changed abruptly. This caused the dissapearance of the steppe mammoth. From this point, the woolly mammoth arrived. He was better protected against the extreme cold. Most likely, he envolved from the steppe mammoth. Although, it is quite odd that they lived side by side for a while. The woolly mammoth was twice as small and had long fur spread out over his complete body. Due this protection, he needed less energy to survive the cold climate. Big animals struggled with this size problem, causing them to extinct. Archeologic evidence has proved this theory to be correct.


Archeologic research

Fossils of the steppe mammoth are hardly found and rare. They are found less often than the remains of the woolly mammoth. This is due the age of the fossils. These fossils look almost the same as other mammoth species. This is causing problems during its identification. To distinguish the remains from other species, researchers examibe its molars. Although the amount of fossiles are very rare, his remains are found on multiple locations. Hotspots of its remains Archeologists found fossiles in Germany, France, Serbia, Moldova and the Netherlands. The most complete skelwton as been found in 1996. The skeleton has been found nearby an industrial factory in Serbia. According to scientists, it reached a height of 15 foot (5 meters) and a weight of about 15.400 pounds (7 ton). The fossils being found in the Netherlands, are mostly found on the ocean floor of the North Sea. This is a common finding place for prehistoric animals, as this area was above sea level in the past.

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