Mastodon remains are common in Illinois. Three sites lie within the Champaign-Urbana area—one is in east Urbana. Indigenous to North America, mastodons evolved nearly 4 million years ago and between 40,000, and, 10,000 years ago, ranged throughout what is now central the United States. Large and hairy, mastodons commonly stood 10 feet tall at the shoulder. They possessed large distinctive multiple-cone-shaped teeth, adapted for browsing on trees and shrubbery. Long tusks were used to break branches, strip bark, and uproot plants. Some mastodons reached 50 years of age. Mastodons are not true elephants. They belong to a genetic lineage that is now extinct. Their presence in Illinois overlapped with of the Woolly Mammoth and that of early humans. The mastodon line, however, expired long before that of mammoths.
Updated 10/2/2009 CAB