Woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) are often considered to be symbolic of the last ice age (Quaternary the last 2 million years) because of their large size, broad geographic distribution, relative abundance during the last glaciation, and adaptation to cold environments.
The habitat of the woolly mammoth is clearly indicated by its physical appearance and eating habits. All evidence points to its adaptation to cold climate. Generally in North America its remains are reliable indicators of deposits of the last glaciation (about 90,000 to 10,000 years ago) and tundra-like conditions: tundra, tundra-boreal forest margin, or cold loess-steppe (an environment resulting from massive deposits of fine windblown dust at the edge of ice sheets.
A great deal is known about the appearance of these hairy elephants as a result of the discovery of several well-preserved carcasses in frozen ground in Siberia. Other information has come from the study, in European caves, of many detailed carvings, engravings and murals by Stone Age (Paleolithic) artists. Woolly mammoths grew to the size of Asiatic elephants (about 3 m high at the shoulders) and had similar teeth. Their cheek teeth were massive, comprising a large series of tightly appressed enamel plates filled with softer dentine, all surrounded by cementum, which anchored the teeth in the jaw. As these teeth wore, the enamel ridges stood out and were excellent grinding mills for the relatively tough, dry grasses on which these animals habitually fed. As in modern elephants, during a complete lifetime six molar-like teeth developed in each side of each jaw, making 24 teeth in all. Of the six sets of teeth, never more than two were in use at the same time, because there was not enough space in the mouth. Successive teeth grew forward from the back of the jaw replacing earlier, smaller teeth as they wore, moved forward, and dropped out.
Woolly mammoths could not cope with the rapidly changing environment and increasing human predation toward the close of the last glaciation, and most became extinct about 11,000 years ago. However in 1993 came the startling announcement that dwarf woolly mammoths radiocarbon dated between 7,000 and 3,700 years ago lived on Wrangel Island. So while the pyramids and Stonehenge were being built in Egypt and England respectively, dwarf mammoths roamed the relic mammoth steppe on this small island off the coast of northeastern Siberia!