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Woolly Mammoth Project – Mythical Animal


Woolly is a native Australian animal that is built like a deer with antlers and a long face. Woolly also has a short tail. However, the animal lacks hooves just like all the animals in Australia. According to Fox (2003), Australia is endowed with a variety of animals that even astonished the first settlers. Ranging from the marsupials that the settlers described as ‘large hopping rats’ to the Koala bear, the settlers appreciated the uniqueness of the fauna. (Fox, 2003). Animals that have lived in a specific environment for many years eventually adapt to that particular environment. As explained by the staff of RIC publications (2005), Australian animals are quite distinct since the continent is significantly isolated from other continents. Therefore Australian environment is unique and so are the animals adapted to live in the environment. (Redfern, 2001). A brief description of the environment occupied by Woolly will provide a good background in explaining various features of Woolly Mammoth. The climate occupied by Woolly is characterized by very high temperatures during the day and very low temperatures at night. Therefore, Woolly needs a way to protect itself from these temperature fluctuations. Wooly is strictly herbivorous. It lives in open flat grasslands, does not burrow or climb. It only weighs about ~10kg and is only ~30cm tall. It has many predators so it has an armor of sword-shaped spikes all over back for defense. It has to endure high heat in summer and freezing temperatures in winter, this is done with a thick insulating fur coat. It has ready access to water.

Movement and Skeleton

According to Steffof (2007), the skeletal and physical features of an animal reflect the way it moves around. The skeleton and the physical features should enable an animal to move around its terrain with ease and get away from predators or pursue prey. (Kotpal, 2001). Due to the other physical features of the body, Woolly is four-legged so that the legs can support the body without creating any undue pressure on the legs. The legs are very long and muscular which gives the animal the capacity to run away very fast and make long leaps while running from prey. (Owen, 1998). Therefore, Woolly can be described as being specially adapted for running. According to Steffof such animals as Woolly and the Deer that are adapted to running are referred to as cursorial animals in science. However, unlike the Deer in other parts of the world, Woolly lacks hooves and this has to do with environmental adaptation. According to evolutionary scientists, animals evolved hooves due to the fact they walked on hard surfaces and were bound to be injured by rocks or sticks. (Wilk & Haenn, 2001). Hooves are made of a hard substance called keratin that can stand these substances and therefore protect an animal while running. Australian animals lack hooves due to the fact the environment is relatively softer. The legs of Woolly allow it to spring on the soft surface and escape from predators. For instance, an animal like the Kangaroo which also lives in Australia has legs that allow it to hop easily.

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According to Steffof (2007), when animals have legs with a smaller surface that touches the ground it gives those animals the ability to make ‘longer strides.’ This allows the animals to run longer distances within a shorter period. Woolly is preyed on by very many animals and therefore the ability to cover longer distances within the shortest time possible is an advantage to Woolly. Woolly has two toes and during walking or running, only the toes touch the ground. Woolly’s legs in this perspective will refer to its leg and the foot. The Metapodials which according to Steffof (2007) are found in the ‘palms of the hands and soles of the feet in humans, are much longer in Woolly. The Metapodials in Woolly are also found much lower on the legs of Woolly. The upper bones of Woolly’s legs which are comparable to the femur in humans are much shorter and thicker. The bones are much thicker to allow for the attachment of many muscles for the leaping movements made by Woolly. Woolly can average speeds of up to 72 kilometers per hour for a distance of about 800 meters. After that speed quickly reduces. Woolly has several gaits with which it moves around. When walking the pair of legs move by opposing each other and this means that when the right front leg moves forward the left front leg moves backward.

Respiratory System

In contrast to other animals living in Australia, Woolly has a respiratory system consisting of comparatively smaller lungs that do not change volume during breathing. Woolly also has a lung consisting of eighteen air sacs that do not act as additional lungs but just assist in breathing. Due to this additional air sac which is absent in other animals such as the Kangaroo, Woolly has the largest combined air sac and lung volume. Apparently during evolution, Woolly evolved the air sacs to increase the surface area for gaseous exchange. According to Whitow & Sturkie (2000), ‘such heterogeneous partitioning is in contrast with the homogenous partitioning of most mammals.’ Another feature of difference between mammals and Woolly is that the thoracic cavity in Woolly has the same atmospheric pressure as the outside environment and is not separated from the abdomen cavity by a diaphragm.

The air in Woolly enters the lungs and the air sacs via the mouth and the nose. Woolly also has oral-nasal structures that help it to filter out larger particles in the air that may damage the delicate respiratory surface. The oral-nasal cavity leads to the trachea via the larynx. Between the trachea and the larynx, there is a slit-like structure referred to as the epiglottis. With every breathing movement, the larynx contracts to aid inspiration movement by reducing the resistance. The trachea consists of rings made of cartilage and is also muscular. The trachea as in penguins is doubled and together with a slit-like opening allows the males to make courting sounds during the mating season as a way of attracting the female. The trachea then further divides into two principal bronchi. In Woolly the lungs are situated in the ‘thoracoabdominal cavity (Whittow & Sturkie, 2000).

The air sacs in Woolly are distributed along the abdomen but do not reach the length of the sacral bones. Since the bronchi do not participate in the gaseous exchange, they function only to conduct air. The bronchi are further divided into parabronchi which may either branch from the primary or secondary bronchi. In organization, the parabronchi are arranged parallel to the bronchi. Just like birds, Woolly also has additional parabronchi called neumopulmonic parabronchi. These additional parabronchi do not however run in parallel to the bronchi and their primary function is to connect the lungs with air sacs that are found in the caudal and sacral air sacs. The air sacs are made of thin membranes and there are not surrounded by a rich network of vessels as in the lungs and it is for this reason that they do not participate in gaseous exchange. The pattern of airflow is such that oxygenated and deoxygenated air does not mix. This ensures that gaseous exchange is maximized. (Videler, 2006). During running, Woolly takes breaths that are in synchrony with the strides to ensure that there is sufficient oxygen supply to the muscles.

Digestive System

Woolly is an herbivore eating mostly grass and shrubs. Just like all herbivores, Woolly chews cud which allows it to digest cellulose effectively. The nature of the food Woolly eats has also made it evolve teeth that can effectively pick grass and chew. The incisors are closer to the front which allows Woolly to pick grass near the ground. Woolly also has four stomachs which enable it to digest food effectively. Woolly has also evolved behavioral adaptations to conserve energy. For instance, Woolly picks vegetations that are succulent. Woolly also eats mostly at night when less energy is lost. Woolly, unlike most other mammals that lose their teeth and grow new ones, has teeth that are worn out over time, move to the front of the mouth, and are shed. (Szalay, 1996). Woolly’s stomach consists of bacteria that can digest food that is not properly digested by Woolly’s digestive juices. After the food is digested fats are the ones that are absorbed first in the rumen which is highly vascularized. Little carbohydrates are also absorbed within the stomachs because the microbes use most of the carbohydrates produced.

Complete digestion and absorption just in most mammals are achieved by the ileum which has a microvillus that is highly vascularized. (Stevens, 2004). The importance of the four stomachs in Woolly is to grind the tough cellulose effectively, have it digested by the cellulase enzymes produced by microbes, and mix with saliva. (Rowen, 2003). The relationship between Woolly and the microbes present in the stomach is symbiotic and enables Woolly to utilize the sugar obtained after the breakdown of cellulose. The regurgitation of food enables the above processes to be attained effectively. Lack of oxygen within the four stomachs ensures that Woolly conserves a significant amount of energy. (Langer & Chivers, 1994). The lack of oxygen prevents the microbes from utilizing most of the nutrients present within the four stomachs thereby ensuring that Woolly makes use of most of the nutrients from the food it chews. The methane produced as a byproduct of digestion is quickly converted to acetate which is then absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy production in Woolly. (Bioweb, 2010). This ability helps Woolly to make use of nearly 75 percent of all the nutrients it takes in, an amount much higher than most herbivores. (Heyner & Rosenblum, 1999).


Just like most animals, Woolly is effectively adapted to live within the Australian environment. It lacks hooves, prefers to feed at night, and has fur all over its body to insulate itself from heat loss. It lives in open flat grasslands, does not burrow or climb. It only weighs about ~10kg and is only ~30cm tall. It has many predators so it has amour of sword-shaped spikes all over back for defense. It has ready access to water. However, unlike animals living in the same environment, Woolly has a similar respiratory system as most birds and a synchronized breathing method like the one observed in horses.

Reference List

Bioweb 2010. Nutrition and Adaptation. Web.

Fox, M., 2003. Discovering Australia. Ballarat: Wizard Books.

Heyner, S. & Rosenblum, Y., 1999. Growth Factors in Mammalian Body. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kotpal, R., 2001. Modern Textbook of Zoology: Vertebrates. London: Oxford University Press.

Langer, P. & Chivers, M., 1994. The Digestive System in Mammals: Food, Form, and Function. London: Elsevier.

Owen, R., 1998. Anatomy of Vertebrates. London: Elsevier.

Redfern, N., 2001. Origins: The Evolution of Continents. London: Elsevier.

RIC Publications 2005. Australian Animals: Middle. Victoria: RIC Publications.

Rowen, R., 2003. Digestive Anatomy in Ruminants. Web.

Steffof, R., 2007. Deer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stevens, E., 2004. Comparative Physiology of Vertebrate Digestive Systems. London: McGraw.

Szalay, S., 1996. Evolutionary History of Marsupials and an Analysis of Osteology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Videler, J., 2006. Avian Flight. California: California University Press.

Whittow, C. & Sturkie, D., 2000. Sturkie’s Avian Physiology. London: McGraw-Hill

Wilk, R. & Haenn, N., 2001. The Environment in Anthropology: A Reader in Ecology, Culture, and Environment. London: Elsevier.

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