Animals of the Ice Age
If you think you winter walk to school is cold, just imagine what it was like living in an ice age! During an ice age, sheets of ice could cover most of North America, Europe and Asia and temperatures plummet. You might think that nothing could survive that type of weather, but you'd be wrong. Take a look at just a few of the animals that lived through an ice age!
The Saber-toothed tiger, or smilodon, weighed about 450 lbs (200 kg) and had 7 inch (17 cm) fangs. They lived in North and South America and were one of many types of saber-toothed cats that roamed the planet. The Saber-toothed tiger had short legs, a bobbed tail and lived in shrubby grasslands. It was a carnivore and may have preyed upon animals as large as mastodons!
The mastodon may have looked like a wooly mammoth but it was a completely separate creature. This relative of the modern elephant first appeared about four million years ago and became extinct about 10,000 years ago. The mastodon was most common in the ice age spruce forests of the eastern United States. They had cone-shaped teeth that they used for eating leaves off the tops of trees. They also had huge tusks that could grow to be up to 16 feet (5 m) in length!
The woolly mammoth had a thick undercoat that the mastodon didn't have and its tusks were curved, unlike the straight tusks of the look-a-like mastodon. It lived in North America, Northern Europe and Siberia and lived on grasses, shrubs and other low-lying plant life. While most woolly mammoths became extinct 12,000 years ago, some managed to survive on Wrangel Island, a Russian island in the Arctic Ocean, up to about 4,000 years ago.
This elephant-sized ground sloth must have been a sight to behold! It was one of the largest mammals to walk the earth and walked mostly on its hind legs. The megatherium had such long claws that it couldn't put its feet flat on the ground, and instead had to walk on the sides of its feet to move around. This relative of the modern tree sloth was thought to have only lived in South America but recent evidence shows it probably lived in North America as well.
At about 25 percent bigger than today's lion, this was not a cat to mess with. The cave lion (AKA the European or Eurasian cave lion) was one of the largest cats of all time. A male could way up to 700 lbs (320 kg) and a female could way up to 385 lbs (175 kg). Some of the largest fossils found of the cave lion were nearly 12 feet (3.5 m) long! The first cave lions walked the earth about 300,000 years ago and disappeared nearly 10,000 years ago - though there are signs that some survived up to 2,000 years ago. They lived across Europe and Asia, from the UK all the way to the farthest reaches of Kazakhstan.
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