A mammoth from the Natural History Museum
© Jack Shoulder
We are all big mammoth fans here at Show Me HQ. Here are some of the fantastic facts we've learnt about them on our travels around museums.
When was the first mammoth found? Mammoths were ‘discovered’ in 1728 when a scientist named Hans Sloane examined a skeleton from Siberia and realised that the remains belonged to a creature that was very similar to an elephant.
Are there any complete mammoth remains? So far, experts have only found one complete mammoth. The remains are of a baby mammoth that scientists have named Lyuba (Loo-ba), which means ‘Love’ in Russian. Lyuba lives in a museum in Siberia but back in 2014 she visited London's Natural History Museum - find out more about her on their website.
How can you tell how old a mammoth is? It turns out that mammoths are a bit like trees – if you cut a tree trunk you can count the rings and work out how old it is. You can do something similar with mammoth tusks. Experts aren’t keen on doing this though because it destroys the tusk.
How big were mammoths? Mammoths varied in size, but many of them were about as big as a double-decker bus.
Aren’t mammoths just prehistoric elephants? No, mammoths aren’t the ancestors of elephants but the two are closely related. They belong to the same family of animals, Elephantidae.
Did mammoths have big ears? Even though they’re related to elephants, mammoths did not have big ears. If you look at the picture, their ears are actually quite small considering their size.
Did all mammoths live in cold, snowy conditions? No, they didn’t. Mammoths were around for 6 million years and during that time they lived in very different regions across four continents . Lots of mammoth bones have been found in very cold places like Siberia and Alaska, but that is because the cold conditions have helped preserve them.
Did early man hunt mammoths? Yes, there is evidence that man hunted mammoths. Some people think that they were hunted to the point of extinction, but there were many other factors involved in the decline in mammoth numbers.
What did mammoths eat? Mammoths were herbivores, which means they ate plants. The mammoth expert at the Natural History Museum has examined the remains of a mammoth’s intestines and has found that they were particularly fond of eating buttercups!
Did global warming wipe out mammoths? As temperatures rose and the Ice Age thawed, forests sprang up. These new forests grew in the grasslands that were once the mammoths’ habitat. Mammoth numbers declined because their natural habitat was disappearing. You could argue that trees helped to wipe out mammoths.
If this has got you excited about mammoths, you can find out how to draw one with National Museums Scotland.
- We are all big mammoth fans here at Show Me HQ. Here are some of the fantastic facts we've learnt about them on our travels around museums.