A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus, proboscideans commonly equipped with long, curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair. They lived from the Pliocene epoch (from around 5 million years ago) into the Holocene at about 4,500 years ago in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. They were members of the family Elephantidae, which also contains the two genera of modern elephants and their ancestors. Mammoths stem from an ancestral species called M. africanavus, the African mammoth. These mammoths lived in northern Africa and disappeared about 3 or 4 million years ago. Descendants of these mammoths moved north and eventually covered most of Eurasia. These were M. meridionalis, the ‘southern mammoths’.
Like their modern relatives, mammoths were quite large. The largest known species reached heights in the region of 4 m (13.1 ft) at the shoulder and weights of up to 8 tonnes (8.8 short tons), while exceptionally large males may have exceeded 12 tonnes (13.2 short tons). However, most species of mammoth were only about as large as a modern Asian elephant (which are about 2.5 m to 3 m high at the shoulder, and rarely exceeding 5 tonnes). Both sexes bore tusks. A first, small set appeared at about the age of six months, and these were replaced at about 18 months by the permanent set. Growth of the permanent set was at a rate of about 2.5 to 15.2 cm (1 to 6 in) per year.
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