Temporal range: 34–0.011 Ma
Restoration by Charles R. Knight
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
Family: Mammutidae
Genus: Mammut
Blumenbach, 1799
  • M. americanum Kerr, 1792
  • M. cosoensis
  • M. furlongi
  • M. matthewi
  • M. pentilicus
  • M. raki Frick, 1933
  • M. spenceri
  • Missourium Koch, 1840
  • Leviathan Koch, 1841 [emend. Koch, 1843 from Levathan]

Mastodons (Greek: μαστός "breast" and ὀδούς, "tooth") were large tusked mammal species of the extinct genus Mammut which inhabited Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Central America from the Oligocene through Pleistocene, 33.9 mya to 11,000 years ago.[1] The American mastodon is the most recent and best known species of the group. Confusingly, several genera of proboscids from the gomphothere family have similar-sounding names (e.g., Stegomastodon) but are actually more closely related to elephants than to mastodons.

The genus gives its name to the family Mammutidae, assigned to the order Proboscidea. They superficially resemble members of the proboscidean family Elephantidae, including mammoths; however, mastodons were browsers while mammoths were grazers.


History and distribution

Mounted mastodon skeleton, Museum of the Earth

Mastodons first appeared almost 40 million years ago; the oldest fossil (Mastodon sp.) was unearthed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fossils have also been found in England, Germany, the Netherlands, North America, Romania[2] and northern Greece.


Right Maxilla with 2nd and 3rd molars of Mammut americanum on display at the State Museum of Pennsylvania

While mastodons had a size and appearance similar to elephants and mammoths, they were not particularly closely related. Their teeth differ dramatically from those of members of the elephant family; they had blunt, conical, nipple-like projections on the crowns of their molars,[3] which were more suited to chewing leaves than the high-crowned teeth mammoths used for grazing; the name mastodon (or mastodont) means "nipple teeth" and is also an obsolete name for their genus.[4] Their skulls are larger and flatter than those of mammoths, while their skeleton is stockier and more robust.[5]


American mastodon

Life restoration of Mammut americanum

The American mastodon (Mammut americanum), the most recent member of the family, lived from about 3.7 million years ago until it became extinct about 10,000 years BCE. It is known from fossils found ranging from present-day Alaska and New England in the north, to Florida, southern California, and as far south as Honduras.[6] The American mastodon resembled a woolly mammoth in appearance, with a thick coat of shaggy hair.[7] It had tusks that sometimes exceeded five meters in length; they curved upwards, but less dramatically than those of the woolly mammoth.[5] Its main habitat was cold spruce woodlands, and it is believed to have browsed in herds.[8] They are generally reported as having disappeared from North America about 12,700 years ago,[9] as part of a mass extinction of most of the Pleistocene megafauna, widely presumed to have been as a result of rapid climate change in North America as well as the sophistication of stone tool weaponry used by the Clovis hunters,[10]. The latest Paleo-Indians entered the American continent and expanded to relatively large numbers 13,000 years ago,[11] and their hunting may have caused a gradual attrition of the mastodon population.[12][13]

Other species

Mammut cosoensis was endemic to North America, from the Pliocene, living from 4.9–1.8 mya, existing for approximately 3.1 million years.[14] Pliomastodon cosoensis was named by Schultz (1937). Its first fossil location is the Coso Mountains in California. It was recombined as Mammut cosoensis by Shoshani and Tassy (1996).[15][16]

Mammut furlongi was endemic only to North America and from the Miocene living from 23.03–5.33 mya, existing for approximately 17.7 million years.[17] Mammut furlongi was named by Shotwell and Russell (1963). Its first fossil location is Black Butte, a Miocene terrestrial horizon in the Juntura Formation of Oregon.[18]

Mammut raki was endemic to North America from the Pliocene, living from 4.9–1.8 mya, existing for approximately 3.1 million years.[19] Mastodon raki was named by Frick (1933). Its type locality is Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico. It was recombined as Mammut raki by Tedford (1981) and Lucas and Morgan (1999).[20][21]

Mammut spenceri is known from the Miocene, living from 16.9–16 mya, existing for approximately 0.9 million years.[22] It was named by Fourtau (1918). Its type locality is Wadi Moghra, Egypt.[23]

Current excavations

Exhuming the First American Mastodon by Peale

Excavations conducted from 1993 through early 2000 at the Diamond Valley Lake reservoir outside of Hemet in Riverside County, California yielded numerous remains of mastodon, as well as numerous other Pleistocene animals. The abundance of these remains, all recovered by paleontologists from the San Bernardino County Museum, led to the site being nicknamed the "Valley of the Mastodons".

Current excavations are going on annually at the Hiscock Site in Byron, New York, for mastodon and related paleo-Indian artifacts. The site was discovered in 1959 by the Hiscock family while digging a pond with a backhoe; they found a large tusk and stopped digging. The Buffalo Museum of Science has organized the dig since 1983. There were also excavations at Montgomery, New York in the late 1990s.

In July 2007, a team of Greek and Dutch paleontologists excavated the longest mastodon tusks in the world in Milia, a village near Grevena. The tusks each measure 5 meters long, and weigh 1 ton. Experts believe that the mammal was a 25–30 year-old male, 11.375 feet (3.5 meters) tall and weighed approximately 6 tons.[24][25]

In August 2008, miners in Romania unearthed the skeleton of a 2.5 million-year-old mastodon, believed to be one of the best preserved in Europe.[26] Ninety percent of the skeleton's bones were intact, with damage to the skull and tusks.[26] In 2009 a family in Portland, Michigan unearthed mastodon bones while excavating a new pond on their property. It is one of approximately 250 mastodons found in Michigan over the past century.[27]

As of July 2009, six mastodon fossils were discovered in Elmacık village, in Burdur province, Turkey. Also the first excavation to discover mastodon fossils took place in Elmacık village in 2006.[28]

In August 2009, workers in Indiana, while digging a coal-slurry storage pit, unearthed mastodon remains. These remains include pieces of ribs, skull, tusks, and a kneecap. The remains were turned over to the Indiana State Museum for study and preservation.[29]

In August 2011 skeleton of Mastodon was found in Ćavarov Stan near Tomislavgrad in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[30]

See also


  1. ^ PaleoBiology Database: Mammut, basic info
  2. ^ 2.5 million-year-old mastodon unearthed in Romania
  3. ^ Mastodons
  4. ^ Agusti, Jordi and Mauricio Anton (2002). Mammoths, Sabretooths, and Hominids. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 106. ISBN 0-231-11640-3. 
  5. ^ a b Kurtén and Anderson, p. 345
  6. ^ Polaco, O. J.; Arroyo-Cabrales, J.; Corona-M., E.; López-Oliva, J. G. (2001). "The American Mastodon Mammut americanum in Mexico". In Cavarretta, G.; Gioia, P.; Mussi, M. et al.. The World of Elephants - Proceedings of the 1st International Congress, Rome October 16–20, 2001. Rome: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. pp. 237–242. ISBN 88-8080-025-6. Retrieved 2008-07-25 
  7. ^ Palmer, D., ed (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. pp. 124. ISBN 1-84028-152-9. 
  8. ^ Palmer, D., ed (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 243. ISBN 1-84028-152-9. 
  9. ^ "Old American theory is 'speared'". BBC News. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  10. ^ "Old American theory is 'speared'". BBC News. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  11. ^ Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C. Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, Illinois: McDougal Littell. ISBN 0-395-87274-X. 
  12. ^ Ward, Peter (1997). The Call of Distant Mammoths. Springer. pp. 241. ISBN 978-0387985725. 
  13. ^ Fisher, Daniel C. (2009). "Paleobiology and Extinction of Proboscideans in the Great Lakes Region of North America". In Haynes, Gary. American Megafaunal Extinctions at the End of the Pleistocene. Springer. pp. 55–75. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-8793-6_4. ISBN 978-1-4020-8792-9. 
  14. ^ PaleoBiology Database: Mammut cosoensis, basic info
  15. ^ J. R. Schultz. 1937. Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication 487
  16. ^ J. Shoshani and P. Tassy. 1996. Summary, conclusions, and a glimpse into the future. in J. Shoshani and P. Tassy, eds., The Proboscidea: Evolution and Palaeoecology of Elephants and Their Relatives, 335–348
  17. ^ PaleoBiology Database: Mammut furlongi, basic info
  18. ^ J. A. Shotwell and D. E. Russell. 1963. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 53
  19. ^ PaleoBiology Database: Mammut raki, basic info
  20. ^ R. H. Tedford. 1981. Geological Society America Bulletin 92
  21. ^ S. G. Lucas and G. S. Morgan. 1999. New Mexico Geology 21
  22. ^ PaleoBiology Database: Mammut spenceri, basic info
  23. ^ R. Fourtau, "Contribution à l'Étude des Vertébrés Miocènes de l'Égypt", 1918, 1–109.
  24. ^ Scientists present longest prehistoric Mastodon tusks ever found in the world and model, Reuters, Jan 2008, Retrieved on 4 September 2009
  25. ^ Remains of mastodon discovered in Grevena, Kathimerini, 24 July 2007, Retrieved on 4 September 2009
  26. ^ a b 2.5 million-year-old mastodon unearthed in Romania, USA Today, 2008-08-08, Retrieved on 11 August 2008
  27. ^ "Michigan Family Finds Prehistoric Bones - Mastodon Bones To Be Given To University Of Michigan". The Associated Press. July 2, 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2009. 
  28. ^ "Mastodon Fossils Discovered In Burdur/Turkey". Yerbilimleri. July 17, 2009. Retrieved 17 July 2009. 
  29. ^ "NEW: Mastodon remains found 30 miles south of Terre Haute". 18 August 2009. Archived from the original on 2 May 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  30. ^ U Tomislavgradu otkriven kostur pretka slona, Večernji list, 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2011-08-26 (Croatian)

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mastodon — Mastodon …   Википедия

  • Mastodon — au Heineken Jammin Festival en 2007 Pays d’origine Atlanta …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mastodon — steht für: eine ausgestorbene Gruppe von Rüsseltieren, siehe Mastodonten speziell Amerikanisches Mastodon eine US amerikanische Metal Band, siehe Mastodon (Band) Orte in den Vereinigten Staaten: Mastodon (Michigan) Mastodon (New Mexico) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mastŏdon — (Zitzenzahn, Mastodon), Gattung der Rüsseltiere (s. d.) aus der jüngern Tertiärzeit und dem Diluvium. Vom Elefanten unterscheidet es sich durch die höckerförmigen Backenzähne (s. Tafel »Tertiärformation III«, Fig. 3); die Stoßzähne sind ähnlich,… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • mastodon — 1813, from Mod.L. genus name Mastodon (1806), coined by Fr. naturalist Georges Léopole Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, Baron Cuvier (1769 1832) from Gk. mastos breast (see MASTO (Cf. masto )) + odon tooth (see TOOTH (Cf. tooth)); so called from the… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Mastodon — Mas to*don, n. [Gr. masto s the breast + odoy s, odo ntos, a tooth. So called from the conical projections upon its molar teeth.] (Paleon.) An extinct genus of mammals closely allied to the elephant, but having less complex molar teeth, and often …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mastŏdon — (M. Cuv., Mastotherium, Zitzenzahn), fossile Säugethiergattung aus der Familie der Pachydermen; diese Thiere haben mehre Ähnlichkeit mit den Elephanten gehabt (Füße, Rüssel, Hauzähne), doch hatten die Backenzähne starke zitzenförmige Spitzen. Man …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Mastodon — Mastŏdon, Zitzenzahn, ausgestorbene Rüsseltiergattg. der Elefantenfamilie, vom Elefanten bes. durch die Beschaffenheit der Backzähne unterschieden, die nicht quere Schmelzfalten, sondern zitzenförmige, in Querreihen gestellte Höcker aufweisen… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Mastodon — Mastodon, eine vorweltliche Gattung riesenhafter Säugethiere, von denen häufig, besonders in Nordamerika, Knochen u. Zähne gefunden werden, mit Rüssel u. Stoßzähnen, wie der Elephant. Das Thier scheint sich hauptsächlich von Sumpfpflanzen ernährt …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • mastodon — ► NOUN ▪ a large extinct elephant like mammal of the Miocene to Pleistocene epochs. ORIGIN from Greek mastos breast + odous tooth (with reference to nipple shaped tubercles on the crowns of its molar teeth) …   English terms dictionary

  • mastodon — [mas′tə dän΄] n. [< Fr mastodonte, coined (1806) by CUVIER Baron Georges (Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert) < Gr mastos (see MASTO ) + odont , stem of odous, TOOTH: from the nipplelike processes on its molar] any of an extinct family… …   English World dictionary

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