What are Mammoths and Mastodons?
In the past, mammoths and mastodons could have been found through out North America. Mammoths and mastodons both are relatives of the elephant family. They were hunted by Paleoindians, and survived to approximately 10,000 years before present (B.P.). This date has been determined by radiocarbon dates taken across the continent.
Both species have several features in common. Mastodons and mammoths had tusks, a special evolution of their second incisor. Their tusks had no enamel, and added a growth ring annually, just as trees do. As well, they both had longer upper limb bones (humerus, femur), and shorter lower limbs. They had five toes, most of which carried their considerable weight. They stood about 3.5 metres tall at the shoulder.
Mastodons Mammut americanum
Fossilized bones of mastodons have been found through out the United States. Most commonly, mastodons ranged along the Atlantic coast and south of the Great Lakes. Their preferred habitat was open spruce woodland and forest.
“The word Mammut, meaning 'earth burrower', can be traced back to the Middle Ages, where eastern European farmers found the gigantic bones in their fields and believed they belonged to monstrous burrowing beasts” (Kurtén and Anderson 1980: 345-6).
They lived until the early Holocene, around 10,000 years ago. So far, the remains of mastodons has not usually been associated with human hunters.
Mammoths Mammuthus primigenius
In the research literature, there has been some confusion about the species of mammoths hunted in the past. Identification of specimens as a result has been challenging. The woolly mammoth, known as Mammuthus primigenius, has been usually described as the species hunted by Paleoindians. Sometimes this species has been confused with M. jeffersonii according to one author. Another author suggests other subspecies existed, and there is resulting confusion and misidentification of specimens.
The woolly mammoth was the most advanced evolutionary stage of mammoths, and had the most complex teeth for a grasses-dominated diet. The distribution of Jefferson's mammoth overlaps that of the American Mastodon. However, mammoths usually were found in open areas, where grasses and sedges were abundant. They became extinct approximately 10,000 B.P.