Mammoths had long, curved tusks, long ("woolly") hair, and were impressive in size. Standing 4 meters (13 feet) tall at the shoulder, and weighing 6-8 tons on average (up to 12 tons for exceptionally large males), mammoths were emblematic of many other large mammals ("megafauna") that were common during the Pleistocene. Like modern elephants, mammoth herds would likely have been headed by a matriarch, with bulls roaming solitarily or in loose groups after reaching maturity. Mammoth fossils are found across the United States and North America. They are also common in Europe and Asia.
Mammoth or mastodon? While physically similar, mastodons are not part of the same family as mammoths. They do, however, belong to the same order Proboscidea. The primary difference is in the teeth. Mammoths are grazers with high-crowned teeth, allowing them to eat grass and low vegetation. Mastodons are browsers with blunt, conical projections on their molars, which are good for cutting and chewing leaves, fruits, woody plants and shrubs. Also featured in this year's artwork, just behind the mammoth, is the aurora borealis, or "northern lights." This is a high-latitude natural light phenomenon caused by the collision of charged solar wind particles with atoms generated by the Earth's magnetic field high in the atmosphere. The aurora australis is the southern hemisphere equivalent.
Go see them!
Many National Fossil Day partners are well-known for their affiliations with mammoths, including: The Mammoth Site (South Dakota), The Waco Mammoth Site (Texas), Tule Springs Ice Age Park (Nevada), the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County (California), Ladonia Fossil Park (Texas), the Tate Museum (Wyoming), Big Bone Lick State Park (Kentucky), and Anza Borrego Desert State Park (California), and the Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits (California). Many museums, parks, and other fossil sites also have mammoth or mastodon fossils on display. For more information on these partners, click on their links from our Partners tab.
National Park units where mammoth fossils have been found include Bering Land Bridge, Cape Krusenstern, Valley Forge, Channel Islands, Florissant Fossil Beds, Glen Canyon and Great Sand Dunes, among others.