What did the woolly mammoth eat? © iStock

What did the woolly mammoth eat?

You can tell a lot about an animal's diet from their teeth and stomach contents...

Asked by: Mike Nickless, Redditch

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The ancestral mammoth (Mammuthus meridionalis) lived in warm tropical forests about 4.8 million years ago and probably had a similar diet to the modern Asian elephant. The woolly mammoth (Mammuthis primigenius) evolved later, as the climate cooled, and was a grazer.

It probably used its tusks to shovel aside snow and then uprooted tough tundra grasses with its trunk. They needed to be so big because their stomachs were giant fermentation vats for grass – which is not nutritious.

Lyuba, the baby mammoth found preserved in the Siberian permafrost in 2007, had adult faeces in her stomach, suggesting mammoth babies ate their mother’s dung in order to give their digestive system the correct bacteria.

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