More about mammoths : Behavior

Did Mammoths Live in Groups?


A group of modern elephants.

Elephants live in groups of two to twenty individuals; so mammoths most likely lived in large groups as well. The group probably contained one dominant female and several younger females with their babies. Just like living elephants, male mammoths probably spent less time with the group starting at age ten and eventually left the group to live on their own.

How do we know?

mammoth trackway

Mammoth footprints in southwest Alberta.

There are several fossil sites where paleontologists have found skeletons of many mammoths that died together at the same time. What is interesting is that the skeletons are all female mammoths of different ages, from very young to adult. This tells us that female mammoths lived in large groups and males lived on their own.

Other fossil sites, like the Mammoth Hot Springs in South Dakota, contain only male mammoths. Male mammoths were more adventurous than female mammoths, especially when they were teenagers. At this site, several lone male mammoths got caught in a sinkhole and died, one by one over a long period of time. Fossil sites like this one, show us that mammoth males wandered on their own.

Paleontologists have also found mammoth trackways that include the footprints of several mammoths walking side by side. The footprints are of all different sizes and were made by babies, teenagers and adults walking together.

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