Congratulations, you now own a piece of bone
from one of the best known animals of the Ice Age, the Woolly Mammoth.
The educational kit which you have just purchased contains
a fossilized bone fragment from an extinct Woolly Mammoth.
It also contains this booklet which is designed to help the beginner or
avid collector understand the Woolly Mammoth and its environment.
The booklet will briefly explain the history of the latest Ice Age,
the characteristics of a Woolly Mammoth, and a synopsis of how the bone
fragment was preserved. This kit is designed as an educational
tool to give insight into this extinct creature.
THE ICE AGE
An Ice Age is characterized by the progressive
geographical advancement of glacial ice sheets. Glaciers form
when there is a net accumulation of snow and ice from one year to the next.
The snow becomes deeper and deeper as years of snowfalls accumulate.
When the snow reaches a certain depth, about 15 to 20 feet, it begins to
turn into ice. Glacial ice forms when the snow is compressed
from the extreme weight of the overlying snow. In order for glacial ice to form, the temperature
needs to remain cold all year, cold enough to keep all the snow from melting
during the summer months. Temperatures during the Ice Age were only
ten degrees cooler in the summer and about twenty degrees cooler during
the winter than present day temperatures. The earth evidently cycles
in and out of Ice Ages with periods of warm weather in-between the cold.
The earth is obviously in such a warm period now. Since multiple
Ice Ages are historically documented for the earths’ past it is inevitable
that in the future the earth will once again experience another Ice Age.
There are two types of glaciers that can form.
They are valley glaciers and ice caps. Valley glaciers form in the
mountain peaks and can flow downward and outward through the valleys.
Ice caps are large sheets of ice that can cover broad areas, as stated
before, the size of whole continents. Movement of the ice occurs
when a sufficient amount of ice thickness builds up. The weight of
the overlying snow and ice forces the outer edges to move away from the
center. This movement usually occurs after a thickness of about forty-five
feet is obtained. Ice sheets of the Pleistocene Age were very large
and covered whole continents. The ice sheets or glaciers in some
instances covered up to 45,000 square miles and were over a mile thick.
Because of the large amounts of water being locked up as ice in glaciers
the flow of water returning to the oceans decreased resulting in a lowering
of sea level.
Many people think that the Ice Age is characterized
by the entire planet being bitterly cold. As mentioned above
this is not the case, the earths’ climate was warm enough to sustain large
elephant-like animals throughout the cool climates of North America, Europe,
and Asia. 18,000 years ago the Earth was in the last peak of the
latest glacial ice advancement as large amounts of land were covered by
continental ice sheets. The earths surface looked very different
with ice sheets extending into central England and below the present Great
Lakes in North America. Ahead of these glaciers vegetation consisted
of large areas of meadow-like grasses. Sea levels were up to 300
feet lower than we see now, and because of this ocean levels dropped and
land bridges appeared. Although a frigid climate was present
in the immediate glacial areas this was not the standard earth-wide.
The climate near the glacial margins was cold but not too extreme, since
plants did grow there. This is documented by the fact that
there are large deposits of animal remains near these glacial margins indicating
the existence of a large food supply (plants).
THE WOOLLY MAMMOTH
Many different species of animals lived in
areas adjacent to the glaciers. Since these areas were considerably
colder, the vegetation was also different. Tundra like habitats existed
with numerous types of grasses and low-lying shrubs. Of all the animals
that lived during the Ice Age, the Woolly Mammoth is best known.
Mammoths, like elephants, were very inefficient
in the digestion of their food. It is believed that they were only
able to digest less than half the food that they ate, as result they would
have needed great quantities of food to stay alive. Due to the large
volume of food that these animals would need daily, undoubtedly most
of their day was spent searching for food and eating.
From carcasses found frozen in Siberia,
it was discovered that Mammoths ate a wide range of plant life. This
would have included anything from grasses, mosses, small plants to brush.
Relatives of the Mammoths first appeared in
Africa some 3.5 million years ago. Descendants of these first Mammoths
would have reached Europe by way of the Strait of Gibraltar (at that
time a land bridge between Europe and Africa), or through the Middle East.
These early ancestors of the Woolly Mammoth arrived in North America about
2.8 million years ago. During this period, the Ice Age was at a peak and
sea levels were at their lowest. During these periods of low sea
level several land bridges formed. Probably one of the most famous
of these land bridges is known as the Bering Land Bridge connecting Siberia
and North America. This Bering Land Bridge was once again exposed
about 35 thousand years ago during the late Pleistocene Age.
The Woolly Mammoth could have migrated back and forth several times during
the last Ice Age. However, because of their adaptation to cold climate
and dietary needs (tundra type vegetation) the Woolly Mammoth would have
been restricted to the northern latitudes of the American continent.
Woolly Mammoths closely resembled the modern
elephant in certain physical characteristics such as tusks and an elongated
trunk. Much is known about these animals because complete specimens
are occasionally found in the melting ice fields of Siberia. The Mammoths are so well preserved that soft body
tissue has been recovered, and even in some rare instances their last meal
is still present in their stomachs.
Adult Mammoths stood about 12 feet tall and weighed around 11,000 to 18,000 pounds. The calves of
the Mammoths were about 2.5 feet tall and weighed about 250 pounds.
Mammoths had large heads with a dome on the
top that sloped downward toward the backside of the animal. As indicated
by the name, Woolly, the entire body of the Mammoth was covered with hair.
The hair on the head, ears, and trunk was relatively short only a few inches
in length. Hair covering the sides of the stomach and on the legs
was up to several feet in length. Overall, the hair was red to reddish
brown in color. Mammoths most likely shed their winter coats in the
summer to help regulate their body temperature.
The trunks of the Mammoths were used to pick
up food and water without bending down on their knees. Their trunks
also had finger-like projections on the end which enabled them to be more
agile when picking up objects. The ears on Mammoths were only about a foot in length as opposed to
the larger ears of the modern elephant which are used to fan and cool body
temperatures. Since Mammoths rarely needed to cool off, smaller ears
were more than sufficient to aid in hearing, and because of their
smaller size actually helped to conserve body heat. The Mammoth also
had a very thick layer of fat beneath their skin which acted as insulation
against the cold.
Mammoth teeth are used to determine the age
of the animal. Mammoths had several sets of teeth that they
lost through use and as they aged. As a tooth was worn down by grinding
action it was ejected from the jaw and replaced by a new tooth. New
teeth were successively larger as the animal grew. The teeth were
made up of a series of vertical enamel plates alternating with layers of
dentine. The age of a Mammoth can be determined by the size of the
tooth and by the number of enamel plates in a single tooth.
Mammoths had very large rootless tusks that
grew out of the skull and continued growing throughout the Mammoth’s life.
In some excavated remains the tusks exceeded nine feet in length from the
tip to the base of the skull. Tusks were used to show dominance within
family groups and aid in the search for food under blankets of snow or
THE EXTINCTION OF THE
The Mammoths began to die off about 15,000
years ago. Their ultimate extinction may have been a result of global
warming, loss of suitable food supplies, lower breeding numbers, or the
hunting of early hominids. Their extinction may have been a result
of all, a few, or one of the previous stated factors.
An Ice Age is actually a series of ice advances
and retreats. As the global climate warmed, the ice would melt.
Then, after a period of prolonged cold the glaciers would be renewed and
advance. This advance-retreat cycle would be repeated numerously,
until the ice sheets would finally retreat for the last time, marking
the end of a particular Ice Age. This last retreat of the ice would
have been brought about by a global wide warming trend of only about
10 degrees Fahrenheit within a relatively short period of time. This
rapidly warming climate had a great effect on vegetation. The plants
that supported the Mammoths began changing from tundra vegetation to forests
of evergreens. The increase in temperature melted the ice resulting
in increased sea levels. The size of continental land masses were
reduced as ocean levels rose from glacial melt water, flooding existing
The vegetation may have changed too rapidly
for the Mammoths digestive system to adapt. Those remaining
Mammoths that were able to migrate or retreat with the shrinking glacial
ice fields, would compete for the dwindling tundra vegetation. The
vegetation loss and smaller habitat may have forced them into extinction.
Mammoths are thought to breed in a similar
fashion as modern elephants. A female Mammoth probably could have
given birth to no more than six calves in her lifetime. Because of
this low reproduction rate, only a few females dying would drastically
reduce the numbers within an individual herd. Soon there would not
be enough individuals within a given herd to maintain a healthy population.
The herd would eventually die out.
The remains of the Mammoths became fossilized
or preserved only after they were rapidly buried under mud or ice.
This rapid burial is the result of an animal falling through thin ice (on
a lake, pond, or river) and becoming trapped or possibly by being buried
in a mud flow. This quick burial is essential to prevent either scavengers
or decay from destroying the once living tissue or bone material. Next
the element of time would take over to further preserve the organic remains.
The number of Mammoths fossilized represents only a small number of individuals
that lived during that time. Most would have died in areas not suitable
for preservation. Mammoths that lived in what is now present day
Siberia are found remarkably preserved, almost completely intact, still
frozen in ice remaining from the last Ice Age. These rather unique requirements
are why only a small percentage of Mammoths have been fossilized or preserved.
YOUR WOOLLY MAMMOTH
The Woolly Mammoth bone included in this kit
was recovered from the bottom of the North Sea between England and the
European continent. The bones come from a depth of 65 to 165 feet
below present day sea level where they were deposited during the last Ice
Age. The Mammoth remains were deposited primarily in prehistoric
lakes and rivers and are approximately 11,000 to 110,000 years old. These
Mammoth bones are recovered by fisherman as their nets scrape the bottom
of the North Sea. New bones are constantly being exposed as sea currents
erode the clay mud layers on the bottom of the sea floor. Many other
Pleistocene Age animal bones are recovered from the sea bottom in this
same manner. The major amount of remains or bones are found
in an area just south of the marine feature known as the Brown Banks.
Once recovered these bones are treated to remove all traces of sea salt
and then emulsified in a special solution to permanently preserve
THE ANCIENT NORTH SEA
As previously stated, during the glacial advances,
large amounts of water were locked up in the growing ice sheets.
This resulted in a worldwide lowering of sea levels. At this time,
the bottom of the present day North Sea was exposed from 110,000 to 11,000
years ago. The area would have been covered with grassy plains, rivers,
and lakes that were home to large herds of animals. Over the 100,000
years that this area was above sea level, Mammoths, along with other mammal
bones, were deposited on these plains that would later become the North
Sea. This is why Mammoth and other animal remains are found
on the bottom of the North Sea.
At the end of the Pleistocene Age (10,000
years ago) worldwide temperatures rose and the glaciers melted causing
sea level to rise. The rising sea levels filled the North Sea, forcing
the animals to retreat northward following the retreating ice sheet.
Scientists are now studying the possibility
of bringing this animal back into existence through the science of
cloning. Cloning is a process that takes DNA from an individual and
then implants this genetic code into a living cell. When this egg
cell matures and the animal gives birth, there should be an exact copy
of the animal you started with. This new procedure may be attempted
on tissue remains recovered from an extinct Siberian Mammoth.
You now own a unique remnant of the past.
It is a specimen from one of the largest mammals that lived during
the Ice Age. The bone sample has not altered significantly from the
time when it was part of a living, breathing animal that existed over 11,000
years ago. It is a unique specimen brought up from the depths of
the North Sea by fishermen. Their find has opened a window to a period
of animal life that is unique in the Earths’ historical past.
Lister, A., and Bahn, P., 1994, Mammoths:
New York, Macmillan.
Mol, D., Agenbroad, L.D., and Mead, J.I.,
1993, Mammoths: Hot Springs, The
Mammoth Site of Hot Springs South
Stone, R., 1999, Cloning The Mammoth:
Discover, v. 20 n. 4, pp. 56-63.
Augusta, J., and Burian, Z., 1962, A Book
of Mammoths: London, Paul Hamlyn.
Kurten, B., and Anderson, E., 1980,
Pleistocene Mammoths of North
America: New York, Columbia
The Mammoth - Project North Sea.
This boxed kit contains one authentic
partial Mammoth bone dredged from the bottom of the North Sea. Along
with the bone is an informative booklet that explains in detail about the
Mammoth, how it became fossilized and why it was found at the bottom of
the North Sea.
SALE Price: $10.00 each
There are six partial bone types that you may choose from:
Rib, Leg, Skull, Vertebrae, Pelvis
(hip), Scapula (shoulder bone)