EARLY PLEISTOCENE PERIOD: 1.8 million years ago
One of the first species of mammoth was the Southern Mammoth, or Mammuthus meridionalis. This extinct giant resembled an Asian elephant but with larger tusks. It was a huge proboscidean, THE LARGEST ELEPHANT THAT EVER LIVED ON THE PLANET. Mammuthus meridionalis was also the FIRST mammoth that ever lived emerging in the Early Pleistocene Period 1.8 million years ago during a time between glacial periods in Europe. This mammoth lived in warm, tropical forests. As the final Ice Age came to be and temperatures dropped, vegetation that supported this species died out and this reduction in food source along with the colder climate led to the extinction of this species and heartier species later emerged like the smaller Woolly Mammoth that could survive the harsh climate. Some believe that Mammuthus meridionalis is an ancestor of the Woolly Mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius.
The teeth of Mammuthus meridionalis are made up of lesser and more robust plates than the teeth of Woolly Mammoths. This was so the Southern Mammoth could chew up the coarser forest vegetation. Over time, the cheek teeth of Woolly mammoths evolved into a design of more numerous and tightly arranged enamel plates with less thickness. The tusks of the Woolly mammoth developed a more dramatic curvature and their overall body size decreased. These changes were advantageous in surviving the increasingly cold conditions of the last Ice Age. Such teeth modifications enabled the Woolly mammoths to chew tougher tundra vegetation. The reduction of body size accompanied by the reduction of the ears and trunk along with the development of a thicker pelt enabled the mammoths to survive in the harshness of a frozen world.