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Other Ice Age Mammals

The following are just a few of the many interesting mammals that were found in the Pleistocene:


Irish ‘Elk’ - Megaloceras

Size - 3m tall at shoulders, antlers 3.5m span.

Distribution - Europe and Western Asia

Distinguishing features - The males of this species had very large and elaborate antlers that were used for display in order to attract potential mates. The largest antlers had a span of up to 3.5m and a thickened lower jaw to compensate for the added weight on top of their forehead.



Cave Lion - Panthera leo spelaea

Size - 3.5m long, 1.4m tall at shoulders, 250-400kg

Distribution - Europe

Distinguishing features - probably the biggest lion that ever lived, this species was 25% larger than modern lions.




Size - 8m long, 5.5.m tall, 16 tonnes.

Distribution - Asia

Distinguishing features - one of the largest land mammals of all time. The Indricotherium was a hornless rhinoceros that was able to graze on treetops due to its immense size.





Scimitar-toothed cat - Homotherium

Size - 1.7m long, 1.1.m tall at shoulders, 150-250kg

Distribution - North America

Distinguishing features - The sabre teeth were shorter than in a sabre-tooth cat and more flattened with razor sharp edges for slicing of meat. The scimitar-toothed cat had a semi-erect stance due its the elongated forelimbs and the short, plantigrade hindlimbs.


Woolly Rhinoceros - Elasmotherium

Size - 2m high at shoulders, with a 2m horn on the nose.

Distribution - Europe and Asia

Distinguishing features - The herbivorous elasmotherium had a thick covering of fur that kept the woolly rhino warm in the cold climate of the tundra. The horn may have been used to sweep snow out of the animals path in a similar way to the mammoths tusks.



Dire Wolf - Canis dirus

Size - 1.5m length, 57-79kg

Distribution - North America

Distinguishing features - Hunted young mammoths in packs, many fossils are found in the tar pit deposits of California as the wolves preyed on previously trapped herbivores. The dire wolf was far stockier than the modern grey wolf.



Size - dwarfed species of elephant

Distribution - Asia

Distinguishing features - The males of this early elephant species had a highly unusual appearance, the tusks were so closely spaced that the trunk could not fit between them and had to be held to one side. The females had tusks that were further apart and could have their trunk located between them in the familiar way.




Horses - Equus

Distinguishing features - The horse family underwent several changes during the ice age, the large heavily built three toed species (i.e. Nannippus, Hipparian) decreased in numbers and were replaced by the more graceful one-toed horses as seen today.



Giant Ground Sloth - Megatherium

Size - 6m long, 3-4 tonnes

Distribution - South America

Distinguishing features - This huge sloth was a very slow moving herbivore which could stand on its hind legs and balance with its tail to eat leaves from the tops of trees.



European Cave Bear - Ursus spelaeus

Size - 2.7m length, 1.5m tall at shoulders, 330-440kg

Distribution - Europe

Distinguishing features - This species of bear was more heavily built and had a more herbivorous diet than the modern brown bear. The fossils of this species are often found in cave deposits suggesting that they died in hibernation over the harsh winter period.



There is a trend among the mammal orders of the ice age towards gigantism with many species considerably larger than their modern day counterparts. This trend may be due to:

                     Increase in strength of the animal

                     Increase in life span

                     Increased metabolic efficiency

                     Increased heat retention

The benefits for maintaining heat would be particularly important for animals coping with the conditions of the ice age.




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