Question Sheet: Three strikes wiped out woolly mammoths


Before reading:

  1. What’s the difference between a woolly mammoth, a mastodon and an elephant?
  2. Where did they live?
  3. What do you think led to the extinction of mammoths — and when?

During reading:

  1. How do scientists know that people hunted and killed mammoths?
  2. When did mammoths live?
  3. How did they stay warm?
  4. What is steppe-tundra?
  5. How did people use mammoths, other than for food?
  6. How might people have contributed to the animals’ extinction about 6,000

    years ago? And what role might climate have played in that?

  7. What did the presence of nanodiamonds suggest might be an additional cause

    of mammoth extinctions?

After reading:

  1. What does the story suggest about the role of hunting in maintaining species


  2. Scientists describe our climate as changing. What lessons might be learned

    from the mammoth story about life’s ability to deal with changes in climate?

  3. Most people think of comets as icy orbiting objects near the sun. What do

    you think might happen if a comet hit Earth today?

  4. Today’s Earth is much more civilized than in the mammoth’s day. People live

    over most of its surface and perform activities that affect air, water and

    species half a world away. Give an example of something that takes place in your

    town or county that might have negative impacts on animals (including people)

    hundreds or thousands of miles away?


  1. How has hunting changed over the millennia? How have these changes affected

    the areas where hunting occurs, the species that are targeted and the size of

    harvests? How has the purpose of hunting changed over the past several hundred


  2. What role do people have as stewards of wildlife? Why do governments work so

    hard to protect wildlife? (Hint: Imagine a world without sharks or birds or


  3. Imagine a comet hitting Earth today. Anticipate how much damage it could do

    and what the economic impacts of that damage might be. NASA scientists are

    building telescopes to scout for comets that might be on a trajectory to hit

    Earth. Why are they doing this? Do they just want to know out of curiosity? Is

    there something that engineers might do if they knew a comet was headed toward

    Earth? How much lead time would scientists have — weeks, months, years, even


  4. In the era of mammoths, there was no such thing as countries. People lived

    in clans and small hamlets. How has the development of organized cities changed

    they way people affect the landscape — and share information about the health of

    Earth’s species?


  1. Write three haiku (a special type of short poem) about mammoths. Most tend

    to describe something in just three lines, consisting of a total of 17 syllables

    (5 in the first line, seven in the second and 5 in the last). Need help

    understanding the form? Go to:

  2. Hold a classroom debate on whether hunting of large animals is good or bad

    for their likely survival. One group should explore why large animals are

    particularly vulnerable to hunting pressures (hint: consider their life

    histories). A second group should look at how hunting may sensitize people to

    the importance of a species (based on its economic value to the livelihood of

    the hunters. Afterward, take a classroom vote: Which side made a more compelling