Saturday, 5 January 2013

Why did mammoths have bent tusks?

The British climate 40,000 years ago was cold, windy, and fairly dry. There would have been plenty of ice about, but, for most of the year, not that much snow .

 When there was snow on the ground, though, it would have made things very difficult for the grass-eating animals.

 A small animal like a vole could make tunnels under the snow to allow it to get to the leaves and roots; but what if you were hungrier, and needed access to huge areas of grass?

 Well, unless you owned a snow plough you’d have to move south.

 Strangely enough, there was one sort of animal which did own a snow-plough.

In fact, a pair of them.

They were made, rather wonderfully, of ivory.


  1. Isn't that brilliant?? And I guess that our elephants would use them in a similar drive a path through undergrowth and the like. How useful they are...and how beautiful. Perhaps if they weren't so beautiful, no one would hunt the creatures for their tusks which would be a GOOD THING!

  2. I seem to remember reading somewhere that female elephants are increasingly commonly not growing tusks at all. It's amazing how fast that's happened.

    On the same subject, Elizabeth Roy has written to remind me that Bosendorfer pianos use mammoth tusks for the keys. I must try to find one just so I can touch it.