Mammuthus primigenius is more popularly known as the woolly mammoth that today is regarded as the poster animal for the ice age, a colloquial term for the Pleistocene period which saw a series of glaciations across the upper latitudes of the Northern hemisphere and an overall reduction in global temperatures. Sometimes also known as the tundra mammoth, the woolly mammoth is but one species of many mammoths that inhabited northern ecosystems, but the large and often exceptional level of preservation of some remains have revealed more about this prehistoric animal than many others.
The woolly mammoth like all mammoths is closely related to elephants, but features a number of special adaptations that helped it survive in the much colder latitudes of the northern hemisphere. First and most obvious is the growth of the long shaggy coat of hair over its body, the longest strands of which being up to meter long. These long hairs covered a denser growth of under hair that provided the main insulation which in turn covered the skin which had a thick layer of fat underneath it to provide even further insulations from the cold. Still the adaptations went even further as the skin itself had sebaceous glands that would have secreted sebum, an oily substance primarily composed of dead fat cells into the hair. Sebum has a number of functions that help maintain skin and hair integrity, but most important to mammoths is that the secretion of sebum would have helped to waterproof the long hair and further increase its insulatory properties.
Another adaptation to the cold environments is the small size of the ears which are only thirty centimetres long at most, whereas by contrast the African elephant has ears that are up to one hundred and eighty centimetres long. Here it is obvious that the difference is down to thermoregulation. By having a bigger ears, the African elephant has a larger surface area to lose body heat through, a very useful adaptation for the hot African climate and the reason why African elephants can be frequently observed flapping their large ears. By contrast the woolly mammoth would need to conserve as much body heat as it could, so by having smaller ears it could reduce the surface area to lose heat through.
Woolly mammoths are typically associated with open areas such as grassy plains. The grass on these plains was not especially high in nutritional value but grew in such quantities that it could provide a staple portion of the diet. Woolly mammoths also seem to have fed upon saplings of trees such as birch which would have helped keep the plains open and covered in grass. Although the cold climate meant that the environment would be dryer, it would still periodically snow and cover the ground. The tusks of woolly mammoths are thought by many to have grown so long and curved so that they could sweep off the fresh covering of snow and get at the grass underneath, something that has also been proposed for the woolly rhino Coelodonta that was also active in these open habitats at the same time as the woolly mammoth.
The trunk of the woolly mammoth had an upper lip that was larger than the lower, a feature often represented in cave art depicting woolly mammoths that has since been found preserved in at least one frozen specimen. This could have been to help the mammoth to more easily grip hold of tufts of grass while lifting them to the mouth. The molar teeth of mammoths were large with broad surface areas to provide for efficient processing of large amounts of grass. Like other mammoths M. primigenius had enlarged neural spines rising up from the anterior dorsal vertebrae. This meant that in life the mammoth would have a hump of soft tissue roughly above where its shoulders were for the purpose of fat storage that allowed the animal to survive during periods where food was not as readily available.
There was probably very little in the way of predators that could take down a fully grown mammoth, but juvenile mammoths seem to have been a regular prey item to big cats similar to how juvenile African elephants are sometimes hunted by African lions today. In Pleistocene Eurasia however the culprit seems to have been the big cat Homotherium that has been found along with juvenile mammoth remains. Cave Hyenas were also active in these plains environments, but seem to have hunted horses and rhinos instead, although they likely scavenged woolly mammoth carcasses when found.
Metahub Tier: TBA.
Critical chance: 5%
Persistanent Ferocious Strike.
Armour Piercing Rampage.
Immune to Damage Over Time.