The fossils that were found at Stanton Harcourt show that the steppe mammoths that lived there were curiously small. Whereas early steppe mammoths reached around 4 metres at the shoulder, the Stanton Harcourt fossils belonged to mammoths that were only 2.2-2.9 metres tall. This would have made them shorter than woolly mammoths, which ranged from 2.75-3.4 metres at the shoulder.
One possible explanation for the small body size of the Stanton Harcourt mammoths is a lack of food resources. Populations of other large herbivores – like rhinos, bisons, and horses – would have fed on similar plants to the mammoths, and reduced the availability of food for them. In addition, the Stanton Harcourt mammoths lived during a period of relatively cool climate just before a major Ice Age. Plant species that produce rich, high-quality food resources may have struggled to survive in this climate, leaving fewer, lower quality plant foods for the large herbivores to survive on.
Adapted from Mammoths and Neanderthals in the Thames Valley by K. Scott and C. Buckingham (2021)