More about mammoths : Diet

Did Mammoths Lose Their Teeth?

mammoth tooth replacement pattern

You have two sets of teeth, your baby teeth and your adult teeth, but mammoths had six sets of teeth! When you lose your baby teeth, your adult teeth come in at the same spot. This is not true for mammoths. Once a tooth is worn down from too much grinding, a new tooth grows behind it. The new tooth slowly moves forward and pushes the old one out. This leaves a fresh set of ridges for grinding food.

How do we know?

Lupe's teeth

Lupe's teeth on the underside of the skull.

Take a close look at Lupe’s skull. We can see several teeth in place — some worn down, some very new!

The replacement process continues on until the sixth tooth is in place. This happens when the mammoth is about 30 years old. The mammoth uses the sixth molar for the rest of its life. Once the sixth tooth is worn down, there are no more replacement teeth. Without teeth, the mammoth can no longer eat and soon starves. Living elephants have a similar tooth pattern and live to be around 70 years old. So we assume that the average life span of a mammoth was probably 70 years.

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