More about mammoths : Diet

What Did Mammoths Eat?

Paleontologists study mammoths' fossil teeth. Notice the rough ridges on the flat surface of the mammoth molar?


A mastodon's molar


A mammoth's molar

Mammoths were herbivores — they ate plants. More specifically, they were grazers — they ate grass.

How do we know?

Mastodons are closely related to mammoths, but they had a different diet. They were browsers — they ate leaves. Notice the difference in the shape of the molars?

We chew our food by moving our jaws up and down and side to side. Mammoths chewed their food differently. They chewed by putting grasses between their upper and lower molars, moving their lower jaw forward, dropping their jaw, moving it backward and repeating again — sort of a grinding motion. This method of chewing works very well to grind grass. Try it. How do you think it would feel to chew this way?

Your browser does not support the HTML5 canvas tag.


Mastodon molar photo by Peter McLaughlin, Univ. of Delaware.

<< Back to More about mammoths.