Learn the Difference Between Mastodons and Mammoths
by Jeremiah Warren, age 12
Mammoths and mastodons were similar animals and today sometimes get confused with each other. Both animals had trunks and a tusk, similar to elephants today.
Until about 5,000 years ago, small populations of woolly mammoths lived on islands in the Arctic Ocean. Both mammoths and mastodons went extinct between 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.
When scientists find a skeleton, they look at the head to tell these animals apart. Mastodons had bigger heads than mammoths, while mammoths had a knob made out of bone on the top of their skulls. They both had long tusks, but mammoth tusks grew at a curve, with some even crossing in front of each other. Additionally, mastodons had much shorter and straighter tusks than mammoths.
Both animals lived during the ice age, a time when temperatures were much colder than today. For thousands of years, mammoths and mastodons lived in the same era and region. Then, mastodons became extinct, along with mammoths a thousand years later. Both animals were herbivores, meaning they ate mainly plants.
While mammoths and mastodons were different in some ways, it is interesting to see how similar and unique they were!