MASTODONS (Greek : μαστός "breast" and ὀδούς, "tooth")
are any species of extinct mammutid proboscideans in the genus MAMMUT,
distantly related to elephants , that inhabited North and Central
America during the late
M. americanum, the American mastodon, is the youngest and best-known
species of the genus. They disappeared from
* 1 Taxonomy
* 1.1 Evolution
* 2 Description
* 3 Paleobiology
* 3.1 Social behavior * 3.2 Diet
* 4 Distribution and habitat * 5 Extinction * 6 See also * 7 Notes * 8 References * 9 External links
Exhuming the First American Mastodon, 1806 painting by Charles Willson Peale
The first remnant of Mammut, a tooth some 2.2 kg (5 lb) in weight,
was discovered in the village of
Claverack, New York , in 1705. The
mystery animal became known as the "incognitum". The first bones to
be collected and studied scientifically were found in 1739 at Big Bone
Lick State Park , Kentucky, by French soldiers, who carried them to
The name mastodon (or mastodont) means "breast tooth" (Ancient Greek
: μαστός "breast" and ὀδούς, "tooth"), and was assigned
by the French naturalist
M. americanum, the American mastodon, the best known and the last
species of Mammut. Its earliest occurrences date from the early-middle
Pliocene (early Blancan stage). It had a continent-wide distribution,
especially during the
Pleistocene epoch, known from fossil sites
ranging from present-day
M. matthewi—found in the Snake Creek Formation of Nebraska, dating from the late Hemphillian. Some authors consider it practically indistinguishable from M. americanum. There is one report of it in China.
M. raki—Its remains were found in the Palomas Formation, near Truth
or Consequences, New Mexico , dating from the early-middle Pliocene,
between 4.5 and 3.6 Ma. It coexisted with
Equus simplicidens and
M. cosoensis—found in the Coso Formation of California, dating from the late Pliocene, originally a species of Pliomastodon, it was later assigned to Mammut.
Since a tentative 1977 report of M. matthewi in China, there have
been no reports of currently recognized Mammut species outside of
Comparison of woolly mammoth (L) and American mastodon (R) Excavation of a specimen in a golf course in Heath, Ohio , 1989
Mammut is a genus of the extinct family Mammutidae , related to the proboscidean family Elephantidae (mammoths and elephants), from which it originally diverged approximately 27 million years ago. The following cladogram shows the placement of the American mastodon among other proboscideans, based on hyoid characteristics:
MAMMUT AMERICANUM (AMERICAN MASTODON)
Elephas maximus (Asian elephant)
Over the years, several fossils from localities in North America, Africa and Asia have been attributed to Mammut, but only the North American remains have been named and described, one of them being M. furlongi, named from remains found in the Juntura Formation of Oregon, dating from the late Miocene. However, it is no longer considered valid, leaving only four valid species.
A complete mtDNA sequence has been obtained from the tooth of an M. americanum skeleton found in permafrost in northern Alaska. The remains are thought to be 50,000 to 130,000 years old. This sequence has been used as an outgroup to refine divergence dates in the evolution of the Elephantidae. The rate of mtDNA sequence change in proboscideans was found to be significantly lower than in primates.
Restoration of an American mastodon
Modern reconstructions based on partial and skeletal remains reveal that mastodons were very similar in appearance to elephants and, to a lesser degree, mammoths , though not closely related to either one. Compared to mammoths, mastodons had shorter legs, a longer body and were more heavily muscled, a build similar to that of the current Asian elephants . The average body size of the species M. americanum was around 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in) in height at the shoulders, corresponding to a large female or a small male, but large males could grow up to 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in) in height. However, the 35-year-old specimen AMNH 9950 grew 2.89 metres (9.5 ft) tall and weighed 7.8 tonnes (7.7 long tons; 8.6 short tons), and another male grew 3.25 metres (10.7 ft) tall and weighed 11 tonnes (11 long tons; 12 short tons). American mastodon molars at the State Museum of Pennsylvania
Like modern elephants, the females were smaller than the males. They had a low and long skull with long curved tusks, with those of the males being more massive and more strongly curved. Mastodons had cusp-shaped teeth, very different from mammoth and elephant teeth (which have a series of enamel plates), well-suited for chewing leaves and branches of trees and shrubs.
Female and calf American mastodon at the George Page Museum
Based on the characteristics of mastodon bone sites, it can be inferred that, as in modern proboscideans, the mastodon social group consisted of adult females and young, living in bonded groups called mixed herds. The males abandoned the mixed herds once reaching sexual maturity and lived either alone or in male bond groupings. As in modern elephants, there probably was no seasonal synchrony of mating activity, with both males and females seeking out each other for mating when sexually active.
Mastodons have been characterized as predominantly browsing animals. Most accounts of gut contents have identified coniferous twigs as the dominant element in their diet. Other accounts (Burning tree mastodon) have reported no coniferous content and suggest selective feeding on low, herbaceous vegetation, implying a mixed browsing and grazing diet, with evidence provided by studies of isotopic bone chemistry indicating a seasonal preference for browsing.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
Restoration of an American mastodon herd by Charles R. Knight
The range of most species of Mammut is unknown as their occurrences
are restricted to few localities, the exception being the American
mastodon (M. americanum), which is one of the most widely distributed
Pleistocene proboscideans in North America. M. americanum fossil sites
range in time from the faunal stages of Blancan to Rancholabrean and
in locations from as far north as Alaska, as far east as Florida, and
as far south as the state of Puebla in central Mexico, with an
isolated record from Honduras, probably reflecting the results of the
maximum expansion achieved by the American mastodon during the Late
Pleistocene. A few isolated reports tell of mastodons being found
along the east coast up to the
Fossil evidence indicates that mastodons probably disappeared from
* Paleontology portal
* ^ Browsing is a type of herbivory in which a herbivore (or, more narrowly defined, a folivore ) feeds on leaves , soft shoots , or fruits of high growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs . This is contrasted with grazing , usually associated with animals feeding on grass or other low vegetation.
* ^ A B Fiedal, Stuart (2009). "Sudden Deaths: The Chronology of
Pleistocene Megafaunal Extinction". In Haynes, Gary. American
Megafaunal Extinctions at the End of the Pleistocene. Springer . pp.
21–37. ISBN 978-1-4020-8792-9 . doi :10.1007/978-1-4020-8793-6_2 .
* ^ A B C Conniff, Richard (April 2010). "Mammoths and Mastodons:
All American Monsters". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 23 December
* ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth (2014). The sixth extinction : an unnatural
history (First ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Co. pp. 25–26. ISBN
* ^ mastodon
Online Etymology Dictionary Retrieved 10 November 2012
* ^ mastodon
Merriam-Webster Retrieved 30 June 2012
* ^ Agusti, Jordi & Mauricio Anton (2002). Mammoths, Sabretooths,
and Hominids. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 106. ISBN
* ^ A B C Ruez, D. R. (2007). "Chapter 4: Revision of the blancan
mammals from Hagerman fossil beds, National monument, Idaho". Effects
of Climate Change on Mammalian Fauna Composition and Structure During
the Advent of North American Continental Glaciation in the Pliocene.
ProQuest. pp. 249–252. ISBN 0549266593 .
* ^ A B Polaco, O. J.; Arroyo-Cabrales, J.; Corona-M., E.;
López-Oliva, J. G. (2001). "The American