April 22, 2014
Young Boy Accidentally Finds Fossilized Tooth Of Ancient Mastodon
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Mothers often tell their kids not to pick up any strange objects, but one young boy from Michigan is probably glad he doesn’t follow that advice.
Phillip Stoll, a 9-year-old boy from Windsor Township, Michigan, was playing in a creek behind his house last summer when he literally stumbled upon a fossilized mastodon tooth.
"I was walking down at the creek last summer. I felt something that I stepped on so I picked it up and everybody in the neighborhood thought it was pretty cool," Philip Stoll told CNN last week.
The boy known as “Huckleberry Phil” around the neighborhood brought the object home to show his mother and begin an analysis on his discovery. After washing off the rabbit-sized object, Stoll said he checked to see if it was magnetic – it wasn’t.
Philip’s mother Heidi Stoll said she initially thought the object may have been a car part.
"I was holding it in my hands for a few minutes and then it gave me the creeps so I put it down on the desk," she said. "It looked like a tooth. It looked like there was something like gum tissue, a little bulgy thing around the top."
Stoll said that she and her son began searching the internet for a "large tooth object" in the hopes of finding clues to what the object might be.
“We saw a picture of a Mastodon tooth and said ‘there it is,’” she told the Detroit Free Press.
To confirm their suspicions, the Stoll family emailed Jim Harding, a Michigan State University herpetologist and wildlife specialist for the Department of Zoology and MSU Museum.
"This is indeed a mastodon tooth," Harding said. "Apparently (it is) the upper surface, broken off at the roots."
“These were elephant-sized beasts that roamed through Michigan over 10,000 years ago,” he explained. “They would look like a hairy elephant if you saw one today.”
Harding told the Detroit Free Press that amateur and professional fossil hunters come across mastodon remains about every three or four years. Two Michigan boys found an axis bone from the extinct pachyderm while fishing in 2012.
“It is a great reminder of what used to roam the country,” he said. “It most likely got stuck in a swampy area and drowned.”
The MSU professor said the Stoll’s tooth probably made its way to the surface after the creek eroded away its banks. He suspected that more of the animal may still be there – waiting to be found.
Philip Stoll said he has always been interested in paleontology and now he feels even more passionate about studying prehistoric life.
“It’s really neat how it looks like a giant tooth,” Phillip said. “It was fun trying to figure out what it was. My mom was surprised.”
Heidi Stoll suspected her son may have caught the paleontology ‘bug’ and will be out searching for more fossils now that winter is over.
"It's going to be hard to get him [sic] run around with shoes on or come inside to do his schoolwork," she said.