While similar to the mammoth, mastodons are different as they are bigger and lived at other points in time on Earth.

Unlike modern-day elephants, Mastodons had smaller ears and foreheads and were covered in a thick layer of brown hair.

The hair on their coats could grow up to 35 inches long, and the males’ tusks had a max length of 8 feet. Female mastodons did not have tusks.

They also stood between 8 and 10 feet tall and weighed between 4 to 6 tons. In terms of their size and height, they are similar to modern elephants that are 5 to 14 feet tall and weigh 3 to 7 tons.

Mastodons roamed primarily around North and Central America but could be found across the world besides Antarctica and Australia.

They usually lived in spruce woodlands around valleys and swamps and ate an herbivore diet. Their name comes from the shape of their teeth.

Mastodons also had tusks, flappy ears, and a long nose and shared the same order as the mammoth, Proboscidea (from the Greek word proboskis, meaning nose).

Mastodon fossils, however, are pretty rare due to scavengers preventing the bones from becoming fossilized. Therefore, it was somewhat surprising when a child found a mastodon fossil simply on a hike with his family.


10 /10 Dragon’s Tooth?

Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve in Michigan is a place where kids can explore and interact with nature.

When six-year-old Julian Gagnon was out on a hike with his family in September, he saw something he thought was a dragon’s tooth, or perhaps even a dinosaur tooth.

While walking, Julian found a huge molar tooth after having his foot hit it.

Mary Gagnon

9 /10 Not A Dinosaur

While his family initially thought it may have been a dinosaur tooth, a Google search soon turned up that tooth was a crown molar of a mastodon.

The tooth was quickly given to researchers at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology (UMMP, where the tooth’s origin was confirmed.

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8 /10 What Is A Mastodon?

A mastodon is an ancient, furry animal that is similar to an elephant. It walked the Earth last about 10,000 years ago.

However, they first appeared between 27 million to 30 million years ago and weighed up to six tons, or 12000 pounds. They were similar to mammoths but also had distinct differences.

Mary Gagnon

7 /10 Striking Gold?

Initially, Julian thought he had won the lottery and could sell the tooth for a million dollars.

However, this was soon dispelled, as it turned out he had found a historically significant find over a monetary one. So, Julian decided to donate the tooth to UMMP for further research.

6 /10 Researchers’ Surprise

Researchers were shocked at the find, and they were able to confirm it was scarce.

It was found that the mastodon was young when it died, at approximately 20 years old.

Some of the researchers were even slightly jealous as they wished they could mine fossils every day. Most animals are scavenged after death; this is an exciting find as it is a well-preserved fossil.

mivod / Shutterstock.com

5 /10 Finding Julian’s New Dream Career

After having the find of a lifetime and donating it to UMMP, Julian decided he wanted to become a paleontologist and felt it was a sign for him to become one over his previous dream career of becoming an archaeologist.

He was even given a behind-the-scenes tour of the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor Research Museums center and met with paleontologists.


4 /10 Throwing Back The Find?

Julian’s father initially wanted to throw the tooth back, but Julian and the nature center thought a valuable lesson could be had from the discovery.

It was lucky they did not throw it back as it will be helpful to researchers. One of the great things about the find was that it was not an expert who found it but rather a child inspired by the discovery.

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3 /10 Mastodon Fossil Discoveries

Many mastodon fossils have been found in the past few hundred years and have also been found in weird places. The first mastodon fossils were discovered in 1705 in the Hudson River Valley in New York.

Then in 1807, Thomas Jefferson funded an expedition led by William Clark to excavate mastodon and mammoth fossils from the Big Bone Lick site in Kentucky.

In 1963, Marshal Erb was excavating a pond when he discovered fossils known as Perry Mastodon. Later, in 2016 a sinkhole in Florida’s Aucilla River exposed old human tools and mastodon bones inside.

2 /10 Extinction Of Mastodons

The mastodon became extinct approximately 10,000 years ago. There are several theories as to why, but they mostly center around climate change coupled with human hunting.

As the Earth warmed up rapidly from the Ice Age, it may have occurred too quickly for the mastodon to adapt, or during this time, humans may have hunted them to extinction.

Another theory suggests the mastodon became extinct from a tuberculosis pandemic as 52% of 113 mastodons studied had signs of tuberculosis.

This may have also led to their extinction as the disease made them weak, and coupled with rising temperatures and fighting off humans, the species could not cut and go extinct.

1 /10 Difference between Mastodons And Mammoths

While mastodons and woolly mammoths both look like ancient elephants, they are two separate species.

However, the significant difference is when they appeared on Earth. Mammoths came into existence roughly 5.1 million years ago in Africa, while mastodons between 27 million and 30 million years ago in North and Central America.

Mastodons were also slightly smaller than mammoths. While they were both herbivores, how they ate was very different.

Mammoths used ridged molars to cut plants apart, similar to modern-day elephants, while mastodons had blunt, cone-shaped molars that crushed vegetation. Mastodons were named so because of their breast-like tooth shape by naturalist Georges Cuvier. 

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