Mammuthus meridionalis

Name: Mammuthus meridionalis
Phonetic: Mam-mu-fus me-rid-e-on-a-lis.
Named By: Nesti‭ ‬-‭ ‬1825.
Synonyms: Archidiskodon meridionalis, Mammuthus gromovi, Mammuthus meridionalis vestinus, Mammuthus meridionalis voigtstedtensis.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Mammalia,‭ ‬Proboscidea,‭ ‬Elephantidae,‭ ‬Mammuthus.
Species: M.‭ ‬meridionalis.
Diet: Herbivore.
Size: 4‭ ‬meters high at the shoulder.
Known locations: Eurasia.
Time period: Late Pliocene to Early Pliestocene.
Fossil representation: Multiple specimens.

       Mammuthus meridionalis,‭ ‬or the southern mammoth as it is more popularly known,‭ ‬is one of the earliest mammoths in the fossil record and is often treated as a possible progenitor species for some of the later mammoths.‭ ‬These include the even larger steppe mammoth,‭ ‬M.‭ ‬trogontherii,‭ ‬that appeared in Eurasia during the mid-Pleistocene as well as the smaller but more famous woolly mammoth,‭ ‬M.‭ ‬primigenius that appears in the later stages of the Pleistocene.
       One of the most interesting aspects about the southern mammoth is that it does not seem to have specialised in eating grasses like later species of mammoth.‭ ‬Examination of fossil sites indicates that the southern mammoth was more at home in‭ ‬woodland habitats that had a variety of trees and shrubs that it could browse from.‭ ‬The molar teeth also show adaptions to eating leaves with the presence of ridges running atop of low crowns.‭
       Because these woodland ecosystems are generally warmer than open plains,‭ ‬the southern mammoth is not thought to have had the dense covering of fur that is known in later species.‭ ‬However as the Pleistocene period progressed an on-going series‭ ‬of‭ ‬ice sheets expanded and receded back and forth across the land.‭ ‬This saw a change of the landscape to mostly grassy plain habitats as a result of these glaciations,‭ ‬something that necessitated a shift towards the primarily grassy diet of later species.‭ ‬Additionally to cope with the periods of glaciation,‭ ‬mammoths would need to develop a denser covering of insulatory hair which would see the southern mammoth stuck in form between the better cold adapted mammoths in the north,‭ ‬and elephants of the south.‭ ‬In this instance the southern mammoth did not‭ ‬so much as die out,‭ ‬just evolve into the better adapted form.

1 - Mammuthus primigenius (Woolly mammoth), 2 - Mammuthus trogontherii (Steppe mammoth), 3 - Mammuthus meridionalis (Southern mammoth), 4 - Mammuthus columbi (Columbian mammoth), 5 - Mammut americanum (American mastodon), 6 - Mammuthus exilis (Pygmy mammoth).

Further reading
- Tooth morphology of Mammuthus meridionalis from the Southern bight of the North Sea and from several localities in the Netherlands - Hans van Essen - 2003.
- Mammuthus meridionalis (Nesti, 1825) from Campo di Pile (L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Central Italy) - S. Agostini, M.R. Palombo M.A. Rossi, E. Di Canzio & M. Tallini - 2012.


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