The 6 Stone Age Animals KS2 Students Need to Know
Updated: Jul 7
The giant animals that existed in the Stone Age are one of the many things that make the era fascinating to learn about. We call these massive animals 'megafauna' (pronounced meg-uh-faw-nuh). Megafauna is an exceedingly fancy word that basically refers to any animal that is very big in size. We still have Megafauna today, such as Elephants and Whales, though all of the Megafauna in the Stone Age are now extinct - most species died out around 10,000 years ago.
If you need some bite-sized info about the key megafauna alive in the Stone Age then you've come to the right place. Your teacher will be very impressed when you can tell them all about Smilodons, Woolly Mammoths, and Giant Kangaroos.
So, just how big was it? The Woolly Mammoth was one of the largest land mammals EVER. They were around 4 metres in length and weighed up to 7 tons. That means a Mammoth was the same length as a London bus and weighed the same as two medium sized cars!
Must have been really, really slow then, right? Not necessarily. Today, an African Elephant can run up to 25mph and there's no reason that a Woolly Mammoth couldn't also achieve that top speed. The fastest human being of all time, Olympic Champion Usain Bolt, can run at 23mph - so even he would struggle to keep up with a Mammoth.
Just how long were their tusks? The longest Mammoth tusk ever found was an astonishing 16 feet long. You don't know my Mum, but if you did, you would know that's the same length as 3 of my Mum. This huge set of tusks was found in Texas.
What did Mammoths eat? Archaeologists have been able to figure out, by looking at fossilised mammoth teeth and dung, that Mammoth's mostly ate grass. They were herbivores.
When did they die out? Many of the Mammoths died out 10,000 years ago. This was likely due to a change in climate and over hunting by humans. A small group of Mammoths though, located on Wrangel Island, managed to survive for a longer period of time - they eventually died out around 4000 years ago.
What does Smilodon even mean? Smilodon comes from a Greek word, meaning 'carving knife'. This animal was well named, thanks to it having two enormous fangs that were curved, and as sharp as, blades. You can also call Smilodon a Sabre-Toothed Tiger.
Were they like Tigers then? Yes, but even bigger. There are 3 known species of Smilodon. The largest, the Smilodon Populator, weighed up to half a ton. That's the same weight as TWO Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnsons.
How did they hunt? We don't know for certain that Smilodons hunted in packs, though it's likely, as this is how other big cats hunt today. Palaeontologists believe that Smilodons would hide in trees and jump down on their prey, stabbing with their massive sharp teeth on the way down. Why? Their 12 inch long teeth were surprisingly weak and if broken off they would not regrow. Thanks to these massive canines getting in the way they had puny bites as well. The best way to protect their teeth was with a surprise attack!
What did they hunt? Big and slow animals like bison. The Smilodon probably went extinct 10,000 years ago, due to the animals it hunted dying out from climate change, extreme weather and human hunting.
Will I ever see a real-life Smilodon? Maybe, yes. Scientists are working on a project called 'de-extinction'. If the project is successful, animals like the Smilodon and the Woolly Mammoth could be cloned and brought back to life.
Do you mean Dire from Fortnite? Nope, I mean a Dire Wolf - the biggest wolf that has ever existed. Dire Wolves were a close relative of the Gray Wolf - the species that all modern dogs have descended from.
How big was it then? Big. The biggest dog alive today is the American Mastiff, and the Dire Wolf was much bigger. They were five feet long and weighed more than Chris Hemsworth (the dude who plays Thor in Marvel's Avengers).
Did they have puny jaws like the Smilodon? Nope, they had razor sharp teeth that could crunch through bone to suck the marrow out. Their favourite prey was wild horses, as they had plenty of marrow in their large bones for a Dire Wolf to enjoy. You would not want to meet a Dire Wolf in a dark alley. Or a light alley. Or any alley for that matter.
Did they just eat meat? Dire Wolves were 'hypercarnivores', which is another long and complicated word to describe how they ate mostly meat but could also chow down on veg too.
Are they extinct? Absolutely, Dire Wolves died out around 11,000 years ago. We know so much about them as over a thousand Dire Wolf - and Smilodon - fossils were found in the La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles in America.
You're kidding right? Not at all. The Giant Short Faced Kangaroo, or Procoptodon, was the biggest Kangaroo ever. This fella was nearly 10 feet tall, that's taller than an Ostrich and most Brown Bears.
Did they live in Australia? Yep, they roamed Australia from about 100,000 years ago to 30,000 years ago.
Could they jump really high? They couldn't jump at all. Unlike their descendents, the modern Kangaroo, Procoptodon was not a jumper, hopper, leaper or bounder. Instead they walked in a style reminiscent of you and I.
Why couldn't they bounce? Their size and weight would have proven a big problem when it came to bouncing. One Procoptodon weighed the same as 3 modern Kangaroos, they were far too heavy to bounce - they would have broken their own legs!
What did they eat? Procoptodon's had crazy strong jaws and were amazing at chewing, in this regard they were more like a Panda than a Kangaroo. Their mighty teeth could have crushed thick vegetables, old leaves and even twigs and branches.
Was every animal woolly in the Stone Age? Pretty much. Thanks to some pesky Ice Ages the climate in the Stone Age was much colder that it is today. To keep warm many animals had thick fur. The Woolly Rhino had two types of hair, a thin undercoat and thick long overcoat.
What colour was their hair? We're not too sure but Woolly Rhinos are in a lot of different cave paintings. In these pictures they are shown with a thick band of dark fur around their tummy.
Did they have horns? Yes, the Woolly Rhino had two horns. The front horn grew up to a metre in length; an excellent weapon for fending off dangerous predators.
What else did they have horns for? One possible use is for brushing away snow as they foraged for food. How do we know this? There are scratch marks on the side of many Woolly Rhino fossil horns, the exact kind of marks that could be made by pushing through snow!
Were they taller than my dad? Rhino's stood at 6ft in height. The average height of a Dad in the UK is 5ft 8 inches. So, yeah, probably.
Wait, I've got this, Cave Lions lived in caves, right? Confusingly, no! They are called Cave Lions because many cave paintings have been found showing them. Also, loads of their bones have been found in caves. Their fancy scientific names is - are you ready? - Panthera leo spelaea.
So, if they didn't live in caves, why were there bones found in caves? That's because they hunted Caves Bears and sometimes the hunting didn't go so well. Funnily enough, Caves Bears do live in caves!
What did they look like? Similar to a Lion today but slightly larger. We have a really good idea of what Caves Lions looked like thanks to the many cave paintings, carvings and figurines that have been found by palaeontologists. Cave Lions had a thick mane around their neck, tufts on their tails and faint stripes on their fur.
Were they dangerous? Oh yes, Cave Lions had strong jaws and impressive muscles. They would have been much stronger than the Lions alive today.
Did they hunt in packs? We're not sure but many palaeontologists are leaning towards the Cave Lion being a solo hunter, which is probably why they waited until Cave Bears were hibernating before they tried to nibble on them.
Are you a teacher? Yes? Then you'll definitely want Imagining History to bring their 'A Handy Guide to Survive the Stone Age' Interactive workshop to your school.
Our Award-Winning sessions combine role-play, storytelling, demonstrations and drama and performance to bring history to life for your students.
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