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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2001

Woolly Mammoths

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

Have you ever thought how much joy it must have given God to create all the weird and wonderful animals and plants that inhabit the Earth? Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:11 tell us that He created everything in six days. On days five and six, God created all kinds of animals. Some were tiny—like a flea. Others were huge—like a dinosaur. One of the creatures that God created was an animal known as the woolly mammoth. Actually, there were several species of mammoths, some of which could grow to be almost 14 feet tall. One of the mammoths, known as the woolly mammoth, is probably the most familiar to us today. It lived in the sub-Arctic regions of Asia, Europe, and North America, and grew to be roughly 11 feet tall. Mammoths were elephant-like creatures that had a thick coat of short hair that was covered by longer, bristly hair. Living in cold environments as they did, mammoths had smaller ears than elephants (since a lot of heat can be lost through those large, floppy ears). Mammoths also had a three-inch-thick layer of fat under their skin, with large fat deposits on the tops of their heads and in their shoulder areas. These fat deposits could be used as emergency energy sources when food was in short supply.

Scientists have been able to learn a lot about mammoths because several of them have been found preserved in huge chunks of ice. Probably the best known from the past are three that were found in Siberia near the Lena River in 1804, on the bank of the Beresovka River in 1900, and in the Taimyr Peninsula near the Arctic Ocean in 1997. On October 17, 1999, the mammoth found in 1997 was transported (in the ice in which it was found) to the Russian city of Khatanga for further study.

Mammoths were herbivores (which means they ate only plants), and had long tusks that curved up over their trunks. Like elephants, they were social creatures that lived in family groups. While saber-toothed tigers could kill a baby mammoth, the only other animal that represented a threat to a full-grown mammoth was the dire wolf, since it hunted in packs. It is possible that man hunted mammoths for food, too.

Today, the woolly mammoth is extinct, and no one knows exactly why. But during its time on the Earth, it must have been an amazing animal to watch as it strode across the Arctic tundra with its huge tusks and a body as tall as a bull elephant! God does a fantastic job at everything He sets out to accomplish, doesn’t He? The giant woolly mammoth is just one more example of how amazing our God really is! Let’s remember that.

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