During their spring break, three students in Mississippi found the partial jawbone of a mastodon while walking on their family property. They stumbled upon their discovery while walking through a recently plowed field.
Upon first seeing the fossil, the boys thought that it was a log, then later believed it was a dinosaur bone.
Shawn and Caid Sellers and Michael Mahalitc discovered the jawbone in Bovina, Mississippi. Caid Sellers said that he spotted the jawbone in the dirt. At first, he thought that it was a log until he flipped it over and noticed that it had teeth. The boys weren't able to lift the jawbone at first because it was so heavy.
After alerting the Sellers boys' mother, she called the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science to alert them of the fossil that had been found. The next day they went to the museum where an expert confirmed that this was the remains of a mastodon.
The family says that they have been finding ancient remains such as petrified wood on the property but were shocked to find the jawbone. George Phillips from the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science says that he was able to determine the age of the fossil by the number of teeth present in the jaw. Phillips says that the mastodon was a very mature individual.
3 boys in Mississippi find part of mastodon jawbone https://t.co/mXoIhrvHP5 pic.twitter.com/eYXfN9srsO— Circa (@Circa) March 28, 2018
Over the course of their lifetime, a mastodon has 24 teeth, but only two or three teeth were in use at any time, according to Phillips. Mastodon's teeth grew out of the back of their mouth and began to move forward. Phillips explained that the life cycle for a tooth included cleaving over time, gradually eroding, and then being shed out of the front of the animal's mouth.
The jawbone that was found was the lower left jawbone of the mastodon. It only had two teeth on the piece. Phillips said that these would be the last two teeth in this part of the jaw, in total this mastodon would have had eight teeth.
Mastodons were related to woolly mammoths and elephants. They first appeared 27 million to 30 million years ago in North and Central America. Mastodons went extinct around 10,000 likely due to climate change or human hunting.
Mastodons were also smaller than modern elephants. While modern elephants grow to be 14 feet tall and weight 7 tons, mastodons were only 8 to 10 feet tall and weighed between 4 to 6 tons.