Yes indeed, there is a mastodon in Michigan…the remains of one. I’m sorry, but we don’t have the technology yet to clone them a la Jurassic Park. That said, this is hardly an ordinary find.
It’s not only the discovery that’s intriguing. It’s the way the mastodon tooth was found. Not in an archaeological excavation. It was in a clothing donation box. The charity chanced upon it when they stopped for the clothing pick up. Needless to say, they were stunned.
According the charity’s executive director, Jay Starkey, they often get odd things. Sometimes—as in this case—downright amazing things. Like Indiana Jones, the charity knew that they belonged in a museum. They donated them to the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
There are two artifacts. One is a tooth fractured in two places. There’s also a tusk, the horn shaped piece in the back of the picture. Mastodon’s had tusks, but sources at the moment say it “may” be from a mastodon. Oddly, they’re both coated in lacquer.
Mastodon remains are not uncommon in North America. In fact, it seems they’re presence was limited to North America and Siberia. Findings range as far north as Alaska to as far south as Florida.
Their extinction came about around 10,500 to 10,000 years ago. For a time there was much debate as to what caused it. Many thought it was environmental factors.
Now the major consensus is that newly arrived hunter-gatherers, having crossed the Bering Strait, hunted them to extinction. Evidence that points to this is that most remains show a trend of declining age of maturation a.k.a. they were killed from unnatural causes.
On a more humorous note, charity director Starkey says the prehistoric teeth are just one set of oddities they get. Among other things found in donation boxes:
Last December, two Michigan boys—Eric Stamatin and Andrew Gainariu—stumbled upon an artifact. While building a dam across a creek, they came across a “cool-looking” rock. After snatching it up and bringing in a paleontologist, it was revealed to be a mastodon bone. There’s just something about mastodons in Michigan.
Michigan wasn’t alone with its discovery. This July, children found a mastodon tooth in a creek in Sumner, Iowa. According to associate Professor Katherine McCarville, that tooth dates to roughly 20,000 years ago.
Hopefully, with the advancement of science and some wishful thinking, maybe we will make Jurassic Park’s fictitious cloning a reality. Then we’ll have mastodons roaming the prairies of North America. Or most likely in the zoo.