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Extinct Columbian (Mammuthus columbi) and Channel Island (M. exilis) Mammoths Fact Sheet: Summary

Extinct Columbian (Mammuthus columbi) and Channel Island (M. exilis) Mammoths

Extinct Columbian (Mammuthus columbi) and Channel Island (M. exilis) Mammoths Fact Sheet

Extinct Columbian Mammoths, fact sheet, SDZG

 Extinct Columbian mammoth, Mammuthus columbi

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Proboscidea (mammoths, mastodonts, shovel-tuskers, modern elephants)

Family: Elephantidae (Asian and African elephants, mammoths)

Genus: Mammuthus                            

Species: Mammuthus columbi - Columbian Mammoth

Species: Mammuthus exilis - Channel Island Mammoth, Dwarf or Pygmy Mammoth

Body Weight
Columbian Mammoth: 5,000-10,000 kg (5.5-11 tons)
Channel Island Mammoth: 200-500 kg (0.2 - 0.6 tons)

Body Length
Columbian Mammoth: 4-4.5 m (13-14.7 ft)
Channel Island Mammoth: 160-200 cm (5.2-6.6 ft)

Shoulder Height
Columbian Mammoth: 3.7-4.3 m (12-14 ft)
Channel Island Mammoth: 120-180 cm (3.9-5.9ft)

Unknown, but assumed to have some similarities to modern elephants

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

North America from Canada to central Mexico; Channel Islands

Extremely varied habitats; riparian, dune, grassland, to steppe-tundra; from sea level to high elevation mountains

Went extinct about 13,000 years ago

Social Groups
Assumed to be broadly similar to living elephants; evidence of living in herds and all male groups. Also, evidence of adults protecting young.

Opportunistic grazing and browsing. Evidence of plants and fruits, including grasses, pondweed, raspberries, oak, and cactus.

Juvenile M. columbi: sabertooth cat, Homotherium
Adult mammoths: No predators other than human hunters living more than 13,000 years ago.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Life stages
Calves may have stayed with mothers for 5-6 years or more.
In one study, a male's reproductive period may have approached 10-13 years of age.

Feature Facts

  • Mammoths are medium to large-sized extinct elephants
  • All mammoths had strongly curved and twisted tusks; grew throughout their lifetime
  • Human hunters and climate change are causes most often suggested for the extinction of most of the mammoths around 13,000 years ago
  • Small Channel Island Mammoths occupied what are now island remnants of a larger Pleistocene island
  • An old mammoth, more than 60 years of age, shown to have arthritis and bone loss
  • At a fossil site in Waco, Texas where many individuals became trapped in a hypothesized flash flood; two juveniles died, held in the tusks of the adults, as if they were being lifted above the water to safety

About This Fact Sheet

© 2008 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


How to cite: Extinct Columbian (Mammuthus columbi) and Channel Island (M. exilis) Mammoths Fact Sheet. c2008. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. extinctmammoth
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)


Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

Archived Content

Disclaimer: Fact sheets on prehistoric (extinct) species contain archived content and are no longer being updated. At the time of publication, these pages summarized the best available science. However, some content may become outdated when new scientific discoveries are published.

Channel Island or Dwarf Mammoth

Channel Island or Dwarf Mammoth, fact sheet, SDZG

The Channel Island (or Dwarf) Mammoth was less than half the size of Columbian mammoth.

It was the smallest mammoth−similar to other species today, where an island species is substantially smaller than its mainland counterparts.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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