Extinct Elephants

There are three elephant species alive today. However, these large land mammals used to be much more widespread and diverse. For instance, several elephants, like Tetralophodon longirostris, had four tusks instead of two. Others, like the Woolly Mammoth, had adaptations like fur coats to survive colder climates.

Why Did These Early Elephants Go Extinct

Several factors worked in tandem to drive many of these prehistoric elephants to extinction. Early humans hunted them for food, as a single mammoth could feed a tribe for weeks. Additionally, their tusks were often crafted into tools and weapons.

Climate change also played a major role. As the Ice Age ended, temperatures rose, leading to the extinction of many large, fur-covered mammals, including mammoths. Elephants that lived in more temperate regions, like the Cretan Dwarf Mammoth, also struggled to adapt to the changing environment. Many elephants also shrank in size due to being isolated over a small area – a phenomenon called insular dwarfism – making it even harder for them to adjust to drastic climate or environmental changes.

It’s hard to pinpoint a single cause for their decline. A mix of factors — including hunting, disease, and changes in climate and diet — most likely contributed to their extinction.

Extinct Elephants

List of Elephants That Went Extinct

NameCharacteristicsWhere Did It LiveWhen Did It Become ExtinctReason for Extinction
Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)1. About the same size as modern-day African Elephants
2. Adapted to survive in the cold thanks to their fur coats
Northern Eurasia, North AmericaAround 4,000 years ago, though most of the population died out around 10,000 years agoWhile the exact reasons are unclear, scientists postulate that it may have been due to overhunting by humans or rising temperatures
American Mastodon (Mammut americanum)1. Possessed 16 ft long tusksNorth AmericaAround 10,000 years agoVictim of the Quaternary extinction event
Deinotherium giganteum1. Closely resembled the modern tapir instead of an elephantEurasia and AfricaOver 2 million years agoLoss of their forested habitats for more open grasslands as a result of changing climates
Aphanobelodon zhaoi1. Lacked upper tusks China and other parts of East AsiaAbout 9-10 million years agoMost likely a victim of a mass extinction event
Anancus arvernensis1. Approximate height was around 8 ftEurope, North AfricaAbout 2 million years agoInefficient feeding 
European Straight-tusked Elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus)1. Dwarf elephant that was approximately 3.3 ft in height
2. Believed to be a mixed feeder
EurasiaAbout 30,000 years agoDecline in favorable climate conditions, combined with extensive human overhunting
Channel Islands Mammoth (Mammuthus exilis)1. Shrank in size due to insular dwarfism
2. Thrived in multiple ecosystems, including dunes, grasslands, and riparian habitats
Channel Islands, CaliforniaAbout 12,000 years agoVictim of the Quaternary extinction event
Colombian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi)1. Closely related to the modern Asian Elephant
2. One of the largest mammoths, around 13 ft in height and up to 12 metric tons in weight
North America, Central AmericaAbout 10,000 years agoRise in temperature combined with the arrival of humans
Cretan Dwarf Mammoth (Mammuthus creticus)1. Probably lived in temperate habitats with broad-leaf trees and conifers
2. Tusks may have been twisted in males but straight in females
CreteAbout 10,000 years agoUnclear
Naumann’s Elephant (Palaeoloxodon naumanni)1. Approximately 7 ft in height and 3.5 tonnes in weight
2. Dentition indicates mixed feeding behavior
JapanAbout 24,000 years agoMost likely a victim of the Last Ice Age
Barytherium grave1. Closely resembled modern tapirs or elephant seals
2. Probably used its tusks to shear vegetation to eat
Egypt, North AfricaAbout 30 million years agoUnclear
Elephas planifrons1. One of the earliest elephants to appear outside of Africa
2. Evidence suggests it was a grazer
Asia, most notably the Indian subcontinentAbout 1.5-3 million years agoUnclear
Cuvieronius hyodon1. Approximately 7 ft in height and 3.5 tonnes in weight
2. Dentition indicates mixed feeding behavior
South AmericaAbout 11,000 years agoVictim of the Quaternary extinction event
Loxodonta adaurora1. Ancestor of the modern African ElephantEast AfricaAbout 3-5 million years agoUnclear
Amebelodon fricki1. Had a unique set of lower tusks that were flat and long
2. Although often portrayed in literature with a short trunk, experts now believe it actually had a long trunk like modern elephants
North AmericaAbout 10 million years agoLoss of its grazing areas due to changing environments
Loxodonta exoptata1. Ancestor of the modern African ElephantEast AfricaAbout 2.5-3 million years agoUnclear
Gomphotherium hannibali1. Like other members of its family, it had two sets of tusks
2. Assumed to be a browser or a mixed feeder
Europe, North AmericaAbout 5 million years agoVictim of the Quaternary extinction event
Mammuthus africanavus1. Ancient species of mammoth related to the African ElephantNorth AfricaAbout 3 million years agoUnclear
Mammuthus rumanus1. Earliest mammoth to appear outside of Africa
2. Most likely browsed in open environments
EuropeAbout 2-4 million years agoMost likely caused by humans hunting them
Steppe Mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii)1. Ancestor of the Woolly Mammoth
2. One of the largest mammoths, at a shoulder height of 13 ft and a body weight of 11 tons
EurasiaAbout 100,000 years agoReplaced by the Woolly Mammoth over time
Palaeoloxodon falconeri1. Descendent of the Straight-tusked Elephant
2. Small in size, around 3.3 ft at the shoulder
Malta, Sicily, and the other Mediterranean IslandsAbout 10,000 years agoLoss of resources due to climate and environmental change
Palaeoloxodon jolensis1. Ancestor of the African Elephant
2. Primarily a grazer
EthiopiaAbout 2.5 million years agoReplaced by the modern African Elephant
Palaeoloxodon mnaidriensis1. Likely shrank by 90% due to insular dwarfism and a lack of large predatorsMediterranean IslandsAbout 10,000 years agoUnclear
Palaeoloxodon namadicus1. Believed to be the largest land mammal to have ever lived, with a single tusk estimated to be 12 feet long and 260 lbs in weight
2. Dentition indicates it was a grazer
Indian SubcontinentAbout 24,000 years agoLoss of forested areas
Palaeoloxodon recki1. Most dominant elephant species in East Africa for a long time
2. Dentition indicates grazing behavior
East AfricaAbout 500,000 years agoOverhunted by humans
Phanagoroloxodon mammontoides1. Strongly resembled other mammoths and early elephantsEuropeAbout 2 million years agoUnclear
Primelephas gomphotheroides1. Possessed four tusksEast AfricaAbout 2- 4 million years agoUnclear
Tetralophodon longirostris1. Possessed four tusks
2. Dentition indicates browsing behavior
EuropeAbout 8-10 million years agoVictim of the Quaternary extinction event
Southern Mammoth (Mammuthus meridionalis)1. Approximately 11-13 ft in height and about 7-10 tons in weight
2. Dentition indicates mixed feeding behavior
EuropeAbout 1-1.5 million years agoMost likely a result of overhunting by humans
Stegotetrabelodon syrticus1. Possessed extremely large lower tusks
2. Potentially lived in herds
AfricaAbout 6 million years agoUnclear
Stegoxolodon celebensis1. Believed to be about 4.9 ft tall as a result of insular dwarfism
2. Dentition indicates mixed feeding
Sulawesi, IndonesiaAbout 10 million years agoUnclear
Stegoxolodon indonesicus1. As a result of isolation, these elephants are smaller in size
2. The presence of skeletons from other elephant species in its environment suggests that it might have peacefully coexisted with them
Java, IndonesiaAbout 10 million years agoUnclear
Selenetherium kolleensis1. Little is known about this elephantChadAbout 30 million years agoUnclear

Note: Not every extinct elephant is represented here, as some have very little information about them, while new ones continue to be discovered.