A resident of California found a mastodon tooth on the beach: it is about a million years old
A woman walking on Memorial Day weekend on a California beach found something unusual sticking out of the sand. It turned out to be the tooth of an ancient mastodon. The publication told about the unusual find Fox5 san diego.
But then the fossil disappeared, and it took effort to find it again.
Jennifer Schuh found a foot-long (30 cm) tooth sticking out of the sand at the mouth of Aptos Creek on Rio del Mar Beach, located off Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz County, California.
“I was on one side of the stream and this lady was talking to me on the other side and she asked me what was at my feet,” Schuh recalls. “It looked kind of weird.”
Shuh wasn't sure what she had found, so she took some photos and posted them on Facebook asking for help.
The answer came from Wayne Thompson, advisor for paleontological collections at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.
Thompson determined that the object was a worn molar of an adult Pacific mastodon, an extinct species of elephant.
“This is an extremely important find,” Thompson wrote and asked Schuh to call him.
But when they returned to the beach, the tooth was gone.
Searching over the weekend turned up no results. Thompson then sent out a social media request for help finding the artifact.
Soon Jim Smith from the nearby town of Aptos called the museum.
“I was so excited about this call,” said Liz Broughton, the museum's visitor manager. "Jim told us he stumbled upon it on one of his regular runs on the beach, but wasn't sure what he'd found until he saw a photo of the tooth on the news."
Smith donated the tooth to the museum where it will be on display. The age of the tooth is not clear. The museum's blog says that mastodons roamed California from about 5 million to 10 years ago.
“We can safely say that this specimen is less than 1 million years old and is relatively ‘young’ by fossil standards,” said Broughton.
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Shuh is thrilled that her find will help unlock the ancient secrets of the peaceful beach area. She didn't save the tooth, but went to Amazon and ordered a copy of the mastodon tooth necklace.
“It is not often possible to touch something from history,” she stressed.
This is only the third locally recorded mastodon fossil find. The museum has another tooth along with a skull found by a teenager in 1980. It was found in the same Aptos stream that flows into the ocean.
“We are delighted with this exciting discovery and the implications it has for understanding ancient life in our region,” said Museum Executive Director Felicia Van Stolk.
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