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Any of several extinct elephant species (genus Mastodon) that lived worldwide 23.7 million–10,000 years ago or later in North America, where they were contemporaneous with historic American Indian groups. Well-preserved remains are quite common. Mastodons ate leaves and had small grinding teeth and long, parallel, upward-curving upper tusks; males also had short lower tusks. Shorter than modern elephants, they had long, heavily built bodies and short, pillarlike legs. Their long hair was reddish brown. The skull was similar to that of modern elephants but lower and flatter, and the ears were small. Human hunting may have played a role in the mastodon's extinction. See alsomammoth.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mastodon, visit Britannica.com.