Mastodons of Unusual Size – University of Wyoming

Yesterday we made our fifth stop on the Mastodons of Unusual Size tour, the University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie. Mastodons get increasingly scarce as you move west, but we had hopes that something would turn up in the excellent fossil mammal collections at the Geological Museum.

With the help of Collections Manager Laura Vietti, we tracked down the only two teeth in the Geological Museum’s collection, shown above with Max. Both of these teeth are lower third molars, but unfortunately the first lophid is missing on each tooth, so we weren’t able to get measurements on either one. Even more surprising, it appears that both teeth are originally from Illinois. With these teeth ruled out, it appears that there are no known mastodon specimens from Wyoming!

This is actually interesting news for us, because lots of Pleistocene animals from other species have been found in Wyoming over the years. If mastodons were common there, they should have been found by now, so it seems they were almost certainly absent or at least very rare in Wyoming. Interestingly, when I was planning this trip I contacted the South Dakota School of Mines Geological Museum in nearby Rapid City, which also holds lots of fossil mammals, only to be told that while their collections included lots of mammoths, they didn’t have any mastodons at all. It seems that mastodons may have almost entirely avoided the high plains.

Yesterday afternoon we left Laramie and headed to Denver for our next stop. More on that to come!

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