Difference Between Mammoth and Mastodon

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 13, 2023

       

Difference Between Mammoth and Mastodon

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Introduction

If you visit a museum, you would see that there are so many species of animals, that exists from "land to water" or "air to land". There are animals you barely see around.  Or there are animals, which do not exist anymore. Because they were all gone before even some of us were born or even before. Their whole species faced extinction. They just exist in museums as fossils or in books. We are going to discuss two such species of elephants, i.e., Mammoth and Mastodon, who faced extinction a long ago. And some important differences between them.

Mammoth vs. Mastodon

The main difference between Mammoths and mastodons is their appearance, size, and teeth. It was believed that their extinction timelines were also different. Both mammoths and mastodons are in close relation to elephants today. They also existed at the same time as Mammoths, i.e., Pleistocene Epoch. It was found that both species lived in the ice age. Mammoths prefer eating grasses, leaves and so on, which simply clears that they were Herbivores grazers. Whereas, Mastodons were both grazers and browsers. There are many such differences between them and we will come across everything in this article.

Difference between mammoth and mastodon in tabular form

  • Mammoths were last seen some 4,000 years ago, whereas Mastodons last existed some 10,000 years ago.
  • Mammoths belong to the genus Mammuthus, which was first given by the scientist Joshua Brookes in 1828, whereas Mastodons (or proboscideans) belong to the genus Mammut, which was first named by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in 1799.
  • A distinction was also found in their teeth, i.e., Mammoths had ridged molars and Mastodons had cusped molars.
  • Mammoths preferred to live in grass vegetation, whereas Mastodons preferred to live in sylvan vegetation.
  • Mammoths stay alive for 60 to 80 years, whereas Mastodons stay alive for approximately 60 years.
  • Mammoths had longer legs than Mastodons, whereas Mastodons had wider bodies than Mammoths. This made the Mastodons look more muscular and stockier than taller Mammoths.
  • A Mammoth's tusk grows and takes a shape of a significant curve, which sometimes curve grows inward towards the face. Whereas, Mastodon's tusk grows and takes only a slight curve.
  • Mastodons were more browsers, as they ate twigs and leaves of trees. Whereas, Mammoths were more grazers, as they ate tough grasses and sledges.
  • Research has been going on, to mix the genetic material of mammoths with modern-era elephants to form a hybrid. Whereas, no research as such, is going on to bring back Mastodons.
Parameters of comparisonMammothMastodon
DefinitionMammoths existed from Pliocene to the Holocene time. They were larger and had a high peaked head.Mastodons existed from Late Miocene to the Pleistocene time. They were not longer than Mammoths. And they had a low, longer head.
Weight compositionThe weight of mammoths generally varies from 5.4 to 13 tons.The weight of mastodons generally varies from 5 to 8 tons.
Family and genusThey belong to the family of Elephantidae, and the genus Mammuthus, defined by Brookes in 1828.They belong to the family of Mammutidae, and the genus Mammut, defined by Blumenbach in 1799.
Teeth StructureThey had ridged molars.They had cusped molars.
DietThey ate shrubs, grasses, sedges, and herbs. And were called Herbivores grazers.They ate leaves of the tree, twigs, and mosses. And were called Herbivores grazers/browsers.
HabitatThey preferred to be closer to the retreating ice sheets, where grasses were more abundant.Mastodons resided away from the ice sheets in more forested habitats.
Life spanThey had a life span of 60-80 years.They had a life span of 60 years.
ExtinctionThey went extinct some 4,000 years ago.They went extinct some 10,000 years ago.
AppearanceThey had long curved tusks, which point upwards.They possessed straighter tusks, which point downwards.
Genetic CloningResearch is going on to bring back Mammoths through genetic cloning.No such research is going on to bring Mastodons back.

Mammoths

Introduction

Mammoths are mammals which are just like modern elephants and they belong to the genus Mammuthus. They are mostly equipped with long, curved tusks. And some species had long hairs, especially the northern species. As mentioned above, they lived from the Pliocene epoch to Holocene. The last of the mammoth specie was seen around 4,000 years ago. They belong to the family of Elephantidae, which have two genera that match modern elephants. It has been found that mammoths are more closely related to Asian Elephants than African elephants.

Evolution

The order of trunked mammals is called proboscideans. They existed somewhat around 55 years ago around the Tethys Sea area. Elephantidae was believed to exist six million years ago in Africa, which includes living elephants and mammoths. It is obvious to learn that many species are different by their appearance, size, and survival factor. In the case of mammoths, they are identified from the number of enamel ridges on their molars; previous species had fewer ridges, but as time passed, they evolved with more ridges. The crowns of their teeth became longer and skulls got higher. They got shorter from back to front over time.

Mammoths were a little late to Europe. They entered there somewhere around 3 million years ago. The first was named Mammuthus rumanus, which spread over Europe and China. They started with 8-10 ridges, but the population evolved to 10-12 ridges. The evolution of the species continued and they developed to 12-14 ridges and they became Mammuthus meridionalis.

And for obvious reasons, once evolution has started it will just go on till the extinction of the species. Another species evolved with 18-20 ridges in East Asia around 1.8 million years ago; the species spread in good numbers, first it emerged in Europe and then reached East Asia. The species which evolved in East Asia came to be known as Mammuthus trogontherii.

Later, Mammuthus trogontherii was replaced by Mammuthus Columbi in North America around 1 million years ago. And then came the famous of the whole species, i.e., the woolly mammoth. They were the best-known mammals so far with 26 ridges, which was around 8,00,000 years ago in Siberia.

Description

Mammoths are relatively large from modern-era elephants. Mammuthus imperator, the largest known species of mammoths that reached the height of 4 meters (13 ft), weighing up to 12,000 kilograms (26,000 pounds) existed between 1.8 million and 11,000 years ago. They were found in North America.

Average mammoth species have a height of 2.5 meters to 3 meters and rarely exceed 5 tonnes. Most of them are large as Asian elephants. And the difference in size is not that much, only the ages are different. It was found that mammoths who are 18 months old grow at a rate of 2.5 to 15.2 cm per year.

The social life of mammoths was the same as that of African and Asian elephants. Females live in a herd led by a matriarch and bulls live a solitary life.

If a specie lived in the ice age, then they have large amounts of fat in its body. Due to the availability of excessive amounts of nutrients in their body, they can easily withstand temperatures as low as -50 C. These excessive amounts of fat also help them to fight against their enemies.

For example, the woolly mammoth was also known as the best-known mammoth. They had small ears and tails, which help them to minimise heat loss. These species had a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, long thick fur and sebaceous glands for insulation.

Diet

Diets differ from location to location. As different places have different climates and temperatures. Researchers have found out the diets of various species of mammoths through their faeces and teeth. Like, as what components of multiple plants are found in their faeces and how their teeth have taken shape over time.

Some various mammoths and their diets:

1. European mammoths had a major diet of C3 carbon fixation plants.

2. American Columbians mostly fed on cactus leaves, trees, and shrubs.

3. Mongochen mammoths were mostly fed on herbs, grasses, shrubs, and possibly alder. Scientists observed non-arboreal pollen and moss spores in their faeces.

4. Artic tundra and steppe were fed on forbs, which were rich in protein and easy to digest. This helped this species to dominate in extreme conditions.

Another conclusion can be built around this, i.e., if diets tell a lot about mammoths, then it must also affect their existence. Some species went extinct because of not-so-good food in their areas of livelihood. Like the species of arctic megafauna that went extinct as their diet was not as good as other species. And it also defines the theory of Darwin, which says that “Survival of the fittest.”

Extinction

There are multiple theories on the extinction of mammoths. Some believe that a glacial retreat and rising sea levels have played a major role. Habitat for the species of mammoths reduced over time. But there were already many climatic changes in the atmosphere and not only that there were many warming reasons which shifted them from the ice age. It is believed climate change was not the alone problem, humans also played a role in the extinction of mammoths. Human hunters spread through northern Eurasia and America during the time of extinction. Though both the reasons are controversial and are still very hard to conclude.

Some examples that contribute to extinction are: Woolly mammoths and Columbian mammoths in North America faced extinction because of the final glacial retreat and woolly mammoths were the last species of the genus. Whereas mammoth steppe died because of the environmental changes in the climate, i.e., the late Pleistocene epoch marked the start of extinction for this species and mostly died of progressive warming. And it is believed that the last of the species of mammoths died because of the rise in the number of human hunters.

Mastodons

Introduction

Mastodons existed even before mammoths. They were the recent members of the family Mammutidae and they are the ancestors of modern elephants, some 25 million years ago. They are also proboscideans which is the same order as Mammoths. They belong to the genus Mammut. Mastodons are the only close relative to Mammoths.

Description

Mastodons are not as tall as mammoths. They had a long and wider bodies with short legs. Their limb bones are heavily muscled, which makes them robust. They have long curved tusks and long skulls, with males dominating in this characteristic. Mastodons had different diets from Mammoths, which made them cusp-shaped teeth. This type of teeth also differs from modern elephants. Their lower tusks were vestigial or absent. Mammut Americanum were present with lower tusks and Mammut pacificus do not have any lower tusks. According to research, it was found they hardly had hairs like mammoths.

Evolution

Mastodons were first seen in North America in the time of late Miocene period till the end of the Pleistocene. They evolved from the population of zygolophodon that migrated to North America during the late Miocene period, some 16.5 million years ago.

Extinction

Research shows that Mastodons got disappeared from North America about 10,500 years ago, which was mostly because of human hunting. Paleo-Indians entered America and their number grew. It is believed that their excessive hunting has caused the extinction of Mastodons. Over the years of research around the American great lakes region, the remnants of some thousand years show that the Mastodon was facing a trend of declining maturation age. It happened because they were living in unfavourable conditions. Some say that it is also because of the change in plant DNA, a key role played by climate change.

Difference between Mammoth and Mastodon (in points)

  • Mammoths were last seen some 4,000 years ago, whereas Mastodons last existed some 10,000 years ago.
  • Mammoths belong to the genus Mammuthus, which was first given by the scientist Joshua Brookes in 1828, whereas Mastodons (or proboscideans) belong to the genus Mammut, which was first named by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in 1799.
  • A distinction was also found in their teeth, i.e., Mammoths had ridged molars and Mastodons had cusped molars.
  • Mammoths preferred to live in grass vegetation, whereas Mastodons preferred to live in sylvan vegetation.
  • Mammoths stay alive for 60 to 80 years, whereas Mastodons stay alive for approximately 60 years.
  • Mammoths had longer legs than Mastodons, whereas Mastodons had wider bodies than Mammoths. This made the Mastodons look more muscular and stockier than taller Mammoths.
  • A Mammoth's tusk grows and takes a shape of a significant curve, which sometimes curve grows inward towards the face. Whereas, Mastodon's tusk grows and takes only a slight curve.
  • Mastodons were more browsers, as they ate twigs and leaves of trees. Whereas, Mammoths were more grazers, as they ate tough grasses and sledges.
  • Research has been going on, to mix the genetic material of mammoths with modern-era elephants to form a hybrid. Whereas, no research as such, is going on to bring back Mastodons.

Conclusion

These two extinct species were found in the Ice Age (the time when the Earth was under snow). They were massive mammals and were quite interrelated with each other. Though, many significant differences can be seen in their structure. The article on extinct species takes us back 10,000 years back. Their existence was valuable as they affect modern-day elephants. They were the ancestors of modern-day elephants. It was found that Mammoths are more like Asian elephants. But the fact is the existence of two species was real, which is now significant to modern-era elephants.

References

  • Mammoth or Mastodon: What's the Difference? | AMNH
  • Mammoth or Mastodon: What's the Difference? | Live Science
  • Mammoth - Wikipedia
  • Mastodon - Wikipedia

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"Difference Between Mammoth and Mastodon." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 23 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-mammoth-and-mastodon-1326>.



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