Woman finds ancient mastodon tooth on California beach

APTOS, Calif. — A woman found an ancient mastodon tooth while visiting a beach in the Santa Cruz, California area over Memorial Day weekend.

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In a news release, Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History said last Friday, a tourist noticed something while at the Rio Del Mar beach. She photographed it and shared it on social media to figure out what it was. Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History Paleontology Collections Advisor, Wayne Thompson, replied.

“This is (a) … molar tooth of the Pacific Mastodon Mammut pacificus, and an extremely important find. Give me a call when you get a chance…” Thomspon said in his response. He went to the area to look for it but could not find it.

The Museum said it worked locally and internationally through different platforms to recover the tooth. And on May 30, all of the efforts paid off because a man in the area, Jim Smith, called the Museum after seeing it on the news.

“I was so excited to get that call,” said Liz Broughton, Visitor Experience Manager at the Museum in the news release. “Jim told us that he had stumbled upon it during one of his regular jogs along the beach, but wasn’t sure of what he had found until he saw a picture of the tooth on the news. He was so excited to hear it was a mastodon tooth and was eager to share it with the Museum.”

Smith donated the tooth to the Museum, according to The Associated Press. It will be on display there from Friday through Sunday.

It is believed to be the third mastodon fossil record locally, the AP reported. The museum has another tooth and a skull that was found in 1980.

The tooth appeared to be from a male mastodon in its 30s or 40s, according to SFGATE. They are about eight to ten feet tall and ate leaves and branches.

Mastodons are distant relatives of wooly mammoths and elephants. They are also extinct, according to the newspaper.

They lived about 10,000 years ago in herds across North America, according to the American Museum of Natural History, per SFGATE.

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