Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming

By Gale E. Christianson | Go to book overview

13

PENDULUM

I think no scurrying will help our cause. Our destined bones will line old gravel pits. Mammoth or saber-tooth or man, there'll be no difference then. Our interglacial summer passes quickly on. -- Loren Eiseley, "Why Does the Cold World Haunt Us?"

Kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Proboscidea, family Elephantidae, genus Mammuthus, common name mammoth. Shaggy citizen of the Pleistocene, it was about the size of the modern elephant and roamed every continent except Australia and South America from upwards of 2 million years ago to the last retreat of the glacial ice around 10,000 B.C.

Among the best-known species is the woolly mammoth of Eurasia and North America, which thrived in an arctic climate along the fringes of the vast ice sheets, feeding on coarse tundra vegetation with the aid of complex molars containing as many as twenty-seven traverse ridges. Standing ten feet at the shoulder, it had a compact sloping body that was protected from the extreme cold by a three-and-a-half-inch layer of fat, a rich coat of dense fine hair, and a long outer coat of coarse reddish fiber. While its heat-conserving ears were among the smallest in the elephant world, it boasted a huge pair of tusks that spread outward from the jaw before curling back on themselves, making them useless as weapons but a great aid in breaking through the crusted snow to forage.

Paleolithic man knew the mammoth well. Awed Picassos

-158-

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