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Any of several species (genus Mammuthus) of extinct elephants whose fossils have been found in Pleistocene deposits (2.6 million–11,700 years old) on every continent except Australia and South America. The woolly, Northern, or Siberian mammoth (M. primigenius) is the best-known species because the Siberian permafrost preserved numerous carcasses intact. Most species were about the size of modern elephants; some were much smaller. The North American imperial mammoth (M. imperator) grew to a shoulder height of 14 ft (4 m). Many species had a short, woolly undercoat and a long, coarse outer coat. Mammoths had a high, domelike skull and small ears. Their long, downward-pointing tusks sometimes curved over each other. Cave paintings show them traveling in herds. Mammoths survived until about 10,000 years ago; hunting by humans may have been a cause of their extinction. See alsomastodon.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mammoth, visit Britannica.com.