STL Science Center

STL Science Center

07 November 2015

Know Your Comparisons

(C) Daniel Reed
The differences between mammoth and mastodon are numerous and easily noticeable when two individuals of the different genera are shown next to the other. The most noticeable is often the illustration's amount of woolly covering, with mammoths almost always covered in a great deal more fur. This is certainly important, but less important than the other differences that we can call out and notice. The tusks of mastodons are less curved than those of mammoths and their heads are more streamlined overall. The hump at the dorsal aspect of the mammoth skull contains some fat content, the same as the hump dorsal to their shoulders. This fat is more important to the cold tolerances of mammoths,which mastodons apparently did not need as immediately. We can assume that the lack of body warming fat humps in mastodons means that 1) they did not need to insulate as much and 2) they did not require a camel-like nutrient retention system. Another notable difference we can see here is the angle of the body. Mammoths have noticeably longer forelimbs than hindlimbs, making their body appear to slant upwards from their rear ends to their heads. Mastodons, on the other hand, appear to be almost entirely horizontally oriented, though their forelimbs are slightly longer than their hindlimbs. A difference not seen here is in the teeth of the animals. The differences in teeth reflect dietary differences and we will look at those in the days to come.

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