Rare mammoth skull discovered in France

Mammoths on display: Early engraving from the St. Petersburg museum
Mammoths on display: Early engraving from the St. Petersburg museumCourtesy Mark Ryan
Paleontologists have uncovered the skull of a rare mammoth species in southern France that could help fill in a gap of knowledge about mammoth evolution.

The skull belongs to a steppe mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii), a large creature that roamed the Ice Age landscape during the Middle Pleistocene some 400,000 years ago. While alive, the steppe mammoth stood about 12 feet tall at the shoulder and spent its life grazing on grasses. Few skulls of this intermediate beast have been found so this latest discovery could help link the evolutionary path between the earlier southern mammoth (Mammuthus meridionalis) and the later woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius).

"This specimen is of extreme importance because we don't know that much about the Middle Pleistocene," said Dick Mol, an amateur paleontologist from the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam, who discovered the skull with French paleontologist Frederic Lacombat. Photos of the dig can be viewed here.

Mammoth skull: American Museum of Natural History
Mammoth skull: American Museum of Natural HistoryCourtesy Mark Ryan
The earlier southern mammoth lived life browsing on trees and shrubs in a savannah-type environment, much like that found today in Senegal, Africa. But the steppe mammoth, and its descendent the woolly mammoth, lived in a colder, harsher environment. Their molars show an adaptation to the tougher steppe grasses that took over the savannah as the climate got colder and the latest ice age began.

BBC site story
Origin and evolution of mammaths
More mammoth facts
Mammoth museum in Russia video
Mammoth site in South Dakota

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

mdr's picture
mdr says:

A related story about DNA studies showing the last woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) to populate Siberia originated in North America is in the news today. Woolly mammoths: Heading toward extinction.
Woolly mammoths: Heading toward extinction.Courtesy Wikipedia
You can find it here.

posted on Thu, 09/04/2008 - 1:03pm
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Here's an update on the progress of the excavation of the rare mammoth skull found in southern France.

posted on Sun, 09/07/2008 - 12:00pm
ayah.osman's picture
ayah.osman says:

This would seem logical because the first humans were known to populate parts of France. Mammoths were used for food and clothing. Their bones were also used to make tools for daily uses.

posted on Tue, 09/16/2008 - 4:24pm

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