Mammoths are back in the news, which is the best place for them because they're ace. A newly discovered mammoth places human beings in the Arctic 45,000 years ago, which goes against what we thought we knew about human history. But this latest dose of edutainment is just one of many mammothy pieces of badassness...
[subheader]1. They beat extinction, for a bit, kinda[/subheader]
Woolly mammoths went extinct pretty much everywhere during the Pleistocene era, about 10,000 years ago. Some cool outcast mammoths weren’t down with that though, and decided to not die – mammoths survived on St Paul Island in the Bering sea for another 3,600 years, and Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean until just 4,000 years ago. There are unverified rumours of sightings in Siberia within the last few hundred years, which would be awesome if true.
[subheader]2. They had sexy tusks[/subheader]
The biggest tusks found on woolly mammoths are 15 feet long, which uncurled is as long as Michael Jordan (6’6”), Johnny Depp (5’10”) and Verne Troyer (2’8”) lying on the floor end to end.
[subheader]3. Sexy tusks were sexy[/subheader]
Male mammoths’ big-ass tusks were thought to function as secondary sexual characteristics – the man-mammoths with the biggest, longest, curviest, most flamboyant tusks would end up man-mammoth-mating with more females.
[subheader]4. Those sexy tusks were brainy as well as beautiful[/subheader]
A mammoth’s tusks grew a little bit every day, and would grow darker in winters than summers. This means that a cross-section of a tusk results in a series of rings, a bit like when you cut a tree open. The inside of one tusk tends to be more worn out than the other on most mammoth skeletons, suggesting mammoths were left-tusked or right-tusked.
[subheader]5. Also, big sexy hair[/subheader]
The wool that covered woolly mammoths is thought to have ranged in colour as much as human hair. Imagine a giant blond-haired woolly mammoth. There’d be no zoos if they were still about, because every other animal would look like shit next to one of those flaxen-haired beasts.
[subheader]6. They’d dazzle your dentist[/subheader]
As well as super badass tusks, mammoths had pretty gnarly teeth – they would typically have six sets of molars over a lifetime, compared to our paltry two. Ones that had seven sets lived longer, so potentially if mammoths had had dentures they’d have lived forever.
[subheader]7. They show us how stupid people used to be[/subheader]
The name “mammoth” comes from a combination of two Estonian words. Maa means earth and Mutt means mole – farmers who found giant buried mammoth bones thought they came from some kind of colossal burrowing animal. Those stupid farmers!
[subheader]8. They show us how clever people got[/subheader]
Humans hunted woolly mammoths for meat and fur, and the timing of this coincides with when advances in basic communication were made. It’s possible, and it’s definitely been proposed, that the amount of planning and cooperation necessary for taking a mammoth down could have really helped humanity surge forward.
[subheader]9. They inspired early artists[/subheader]
Rouffignac cave in the Dorgodgne is one of the world’s best-preserved examples of Paleolithic art. Of the 224 animals depicted within it, 158 are woolly mammoths, proving that mammoths are 70% of everything that is best within the animal kingdom.
[subheader]10. They made a Russian kid very happy[/subheader]
Three years ago, an eleven-year-old Russian boy called Yevgeny Salinder, nicknamed Zhenya, was walking his dogs and found an incredibly well-preserved 30,000-year-old woolly mammoth. The discovery led to a few scientific revelations about mammoths and fat storage, which made mammoth scientists very happy. In return, they nicknamed the mammoth Zhenya after the dog-walking boy. Awww.
[subheader]11. Their ivory is legal because they’re unkillable because they’re dead[/subheader]
This is still not that great a thing, as nothing that propagates the idea that ivory is desirable is good really, but it’s sort of a happy medium, maybe. You can buy things like skull rings made from mammoth ivory secure in the knowledge you didn’t directly lead to an elephant’s death.
[subheader]12. Those things from Lord Of The Rings[/subheader]
Yeah, they were good.
[subheader]13. They might come back[/subheader]
There are a few different plans for potentially bringing mammoths back, because they’re great. The nucleus of a mammoth’s egg cell could theoretically be implanted into a bull elephant to get the elephant to sort of birth a mammoth, but the cells they’d need are yet to be found in good enough condition. Earlier this year, using a different method that essentially rewrites DNA, mammoth DNA was copied into elephant cells, but we’re sadly still a way off mammoth rides at the seaside.