Rock Cycle - Past Life (3)
Post Lab 

  • Interpreting evidence from fossils.
  • Comparing modern day elephants with their extinct ancestors.
  • mastodon
  • mammoth
  • prehistoric

Students use the Internet to research.

A wooly mammoth


After the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago,  mammals dominated the land. Many of the large mammals  are now extinct as well, but many  of their descendants, however, can be easily recognized.

Arsisnoitherium lived about 35 million years ago. It resembles a mix between a rhinoceros and an elephant. Zeuglodon was a large sea mammal that was 80 feet long. Imagine a dolphin or porpoise with large, sharp teeth. Hyracotherium was a small mammal that is thought to be the direct ancestor of the horse. Indricotherium, which stood 18 feet tall, is a giant ancestor of the rhinoceros. Smilodon, better known as the saber-toothed tiger or cat, is likely related to most large cats that now prowl the earth. Dinictis was small and slender, and is also probably related to the cheetah and other large cats. Moeritherium was smaller than its ancestor, the present day elephant. Platybelodon and the Wooly Mammoth are also related to the elephant. The mammoth was adapted to live in colder climates.

Elephants are the largest living land mammals. Their ancestors included the Wooly Mammoth, the Columbia Mammoth, the Imperial Mammoth and the Mastodon. Today’s elephants are adapted for warm climates, but their ancestors were adapted to both warm and cold climates.

Frozen mummified mammoths have been found in Siberia and Alaska. Dimo, the complete carcass of a six_month_old baby mammoth, was discovered in 1977. Another mummified baby mammoth, less than three months old, was found in Siberia in 1988.

Mastodons (Mammut americanum) are part of a group of extinct elephant-like mammals that first appeared during the early Miocene Epoch, about 20 million years ago. They became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, about 10,000 years ago. The Mastodons belong to same Order of mammals as the elephants, Order Proboscidea.

  1. Read Mammoth Mary to students which helps students visualize the animals that roamed in Northern California during the Irvingtonion Stage, which is the beginning of the Pleistocene in North America.  For more information on this site in Fremont, California consult  A Pleistocene Ecosystem by Wes Gordon. 

    Mammoth Mary
    by Cassy Fries 

    More than a million years ago
    Near Irvington where we call home
    There were grasslands and trees
    Where animals would roam

    A mammoth named Mary
    Had once lived here
    She was so big and tall
    Making friends was her fear

    She wanted to make friends
    So she went on a walk
    She met a short-faced bear
    And began to talk

    My name is Mammoth Mary
    And grass is what I eat
    I don’t want to be rude but
    You have very big feet!

    Well, I stand eleven feet tall
    My name is Short Faced Bear Steve
    I’ll eat almost anything
    So , Mary Mammoth, just leave!

    Mammoth Mary was sad
    But continued on her walk
    She met Sam Saber Tooth Cat
    And began to talk

    My name is Mammoth Mary
    10,000 pounds is what I weigh
    I’m looking for a friend
    What do you say?

    I have very sharp teeth
    A short tail, and I’m strong
    You shouldn’t have come here
    So you better be gone

    Mammoth Mary was sad
    But continued on her walk
    She met a ground sloth
    And began to talk

    My name is Mammoth Mary
    And I’m over twelve feet tall
    I see you eat many plants
    Do you want a friend at all?

    I’m Gary Ground Sloth
    And my tongue is very long
    I have large claws
    Coming here was wrong

    Mammoth Mary was sad
    But continued on her walk
    She met a Pronghorn antelope
    And began to talk

    My name is Mammoth Mary
    Do you have time to share?
    I’m looking for some friends
    But no one seems to care

    I’m Polly the Pronghorn antelope
    But I’m bigger than a deer
    I have two horns and two prongs
    Any you don’t belong here

    Mammoth Mary was sad
    But continued on her walk
    She met a western horse
    And began to talk

    I am Willy a Western Horse
    An African Zebra is what I'm like
    I don't want to be bothered
    So Mammoth Mary take a hike

    Mammoth Mary was sad
    But continued to walk
    She met a camelid
    And they began to talk

    My name is Mammoth Mary
    Do you have  time to play?
    I’m looking for a friend
    Do you have plans today?

    My name is Camelid Cathy
    And I have no humps to see
    Plants are what I like
    But I’m as busy as can be  

    Mammoth Mary has no friends
    She cried and was so upset
    As she stared to walk home
    A mastodon is what she met  

    I eat leaves and twigs
    My name is Mastodon Mike
    I am much smaller than you
    But we look somewhat alike

    Mammoth Mary was happy
    The two began to talk
    She finally had a friend
    Together they would walk

    Mammoth Mary was happy
    And lived a great life
    She like Mastodon Mike
    And soon became his wife

    Sixty years had gone by
    And they grew old every day
    Their teeth had fallen out
    Mary and Mike passed away  

    A million years later
    Scientists dug in the ground
    Mammoth Mary, then Mike
    Their skeletons were found

  2. Use the background information to remind students that there are many types of extinct mammals. Tell them that we know these extinct animals only through their fossils. Have the students imagine what the fossil organisms looked like, by giving them clues from the background section. You may want them to draw a picture of what they think the mammal looked like.
  3. Mastodons and mammoths were not the same type of animal. They are both related to the elephant, but have a number of important differences. Instruct the students to search the World Wide Web for information on mastodons and mammoths. Have them try to learn differences between these creatures. You may wish to suggest that they find pictures of each creature, and use them as a guide.

    Instruct students to make a list of the sites they searched, and to identify the sites that were most helpful.

    Useful sites include: 

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