Boy, 6, finds historic mastodon tooth in Michigan creek

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. — A 6-year-old Michigan boy’s recent discovery will soon have a new home in the University of Michigan’s Museum of Paleontology.

While on a Sept. 6 hike with his family at Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve in Rochester Hills, Julian Gagnon found an ancient mastodon tooth, and he’s probably the first person to touch it in about 12,000 years, Adam Rountrey, the paleontology museum’s research museum collection manager, told MLive.com.

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“These things are so valuable in the long term for research about how the animals lived,” Rountrey told the news outlet.

According to WDIV, the Gagnon family thought Julian had simply stumbled upon a standard rock, but a quick online search revealed the gravity of his find.

“I just felt something on my foot, and I grabbed it up, and it kind of looked like a tooth,” Julian told the TV station.

Abby Drake, docent at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History, told WDIV that Julian’s find will make an excellent addition to the museum’s rare exhibit on mastodons, the state fossil of Michigan.

“It’s hard to be preserved as a fossil. When an animal dies, most of the time it is scavenged,” Drake said, adding, “I’m a little jealous, personally, because finding fossils is something that I wish I could do every day.”

According to WDIV, the Michigan museum’s paleontologists estimate the mastodon tooth came from a younger mastodon, possibly in its 20s, but said they will know more once they are able to research its specifics.

Meanwhile, Rountrey told MLive.com that Julian’s discovery prompted him and his fellow paleontologists to scour the Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve creek for more mastodon material, but they struck out. He did, however, explain how he and his team authenticated Julian’s discovery.

“(The tooth’s) crown is about the size of my fist, so maybe between baseball and softball size,” he told the news outlet, adding, “There aren’t really too many options for what animal that could come from in Michigan. We had mammoths and mastodons here at the same time, but mammoth teeth are very distinctive and different (from what Julian found).”

He also noted “tall bumps” on the crowns that form “little sort of mountains on the tooth” that are distinctively from a mastodon, MLive.com reported.