Mammoth vs. Mastodon

What's the Difference?

Mammoths and mastodons are both extinct relatives of modern-day elephants, but they have distinct differences. Mammoths were larger and had long, curved tusks that could reach up to 16 feet in length. They had a hump of fat on their backs and a thick, shaggy coat of hair to survive in cold environments. Mastodons, on the other hand, were slightly smaller and had straighter tusks that were shorter in length. They had a more sloping back and a coat of hair that was not as thick as the mammoths'. While both mammoths and mastodons roamed the Earth during the Ice Age, their physical characteristics and adaptations set them apart.


Photo by April Pethybridge on Unsplash
Scientific NameMammuthusMammut
Time PeriodFrom the Pliocene to the HoloceneFrom the Miocene to the Pleistocene
TusksCurved and longStraight and long
LocationNorth America, Europe, Asia, and AfricaNorth America, Europe, Asia, and Africa
Number of SpeciesSeveral speciesSeveral species
Photo by Battenhall on Unsplash

Further Detail


The prehistoric world was home to numerous fascinating creatures, and two of the most iconic ones are the mammoth and the mastodon. These ancient giants roamed the Earth thousands of years ago, captivating our imagination with their immense size and unique features. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are several key differences that set them apart. In this article, we will delve into the attributes of mammoths and mastodons, exploring their physical characteristics, habitats, diets, and extinction.

Physical Characteristics

Mammoths and mastodons shared some similarities in terms of their physical appearance, but they also had distinct features. Both belonged to the same family, Elephantidae, and had long, curved tusks. However, mammoths had longer and more curved tusks compared to mastodons. Additionally, mammoths had a hump of fat on their backs, which mastodons lacked. In terms of size, mammoths were generally larger, with some species reaching heights of up to 13 feet and weighing around 6 to 8 tons. Mastodons, on the other hand, were slightly smaller, averaging around 9 to 10 feet in height and weighing between 4 to 6 tons.


When it comes to their habitats, mammoths and mastodons had different preferences. Mammoths were primarily found in the northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, where they thrived in the grasslands and tundra environments. They were well-adapted to the cold climate, with their long, shaggy hair and humps providing insulation. On the other hand, mastodons inhabited a wider range of habitats, including forests and swamps. They were more commonly found in North America, particularly in the southern regions, but their fossils have also been discovered in Europe and Asia.


Both mammoths and mastodons were herbivores, but their diets differed slightly. Mammoths primarily fed on grasses, sedges, and other low-lying vegetation. Their long, curved tusks were used to clear away snow and ice, allowing them to access the plants beneath. Mastodons, on the other hand, had a more varied diet. They consumed a range of vegetation, including leaves, twigs, and fruits. Their teeth were better suited for grinding and chewing, as they had more cusps compared to mammoths. This difference in diet suggests that mastodons were more adaptable to different environments and food sources.


Both mammoths and mastodons faced a similar fate and became extinct towards the end of the last Ice Age. The exact reasons for their extinction are still debated among scientists, but a combination of factors likely played a role. Climate change, overhunting by early humans, and the loss of their preferred habitats are all believed to have contributed to their demise. Mammoths, with their larger populations and wider distribution, managed to survive longer than mastodons. The last known mammoth populations existed on isolated islands until around 4,000 years ago, while mastodons disappeared from the Earth much earlier.


In conclusion, mammoths and mastodons were both magnificent creatures that roamed the Earth during the prehistoric era. While they shared some similarities, such as their long tusks and herbivorous diets, they also had distinct features that set them apart. Mammoths were larger, had more curved tusks, and possessed a hump on their backs. They preferred grasslands and tundra environments, while mastodons inhabited a wider range of habitats. Mammoths primarily fed on grasses, while mastodons had a more varied diet. Ultimately, both species faced extinction, but mammoths managed to survive longer. Studying these ancient giants allows us to gain insights into the Earth's history and the delicate balance between species and their environments.

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