Fossil Friday – mastodon molar

For the last few weeks, volunteer Joe Reavis has been diligently reconstructing a box of tooth fragments that came to the museum several years ago via a mitigation project in Murrieta, California. It quickly became apparent that the fragments were mastodon, and it seems they all come from a single tooth.

The tooth is shown above in occlusal view, and the presence of four lophs show that it’s a third molar. The angle of the lophs and comparison to other specimens in the WSC collection indicate that it’s the upper left third molar.

Here’s the labial view:


And the lingual view:


Looking past all the post-burial fracturing, this tooth shows no signs of any occlusal wear, and had probably not erupted. There is also enough preserved to get measurements for our “Mastodons of Unusual Size” project; the length:width ratio of this tooth is in the typical range for California specimens.

The museum obtained several boxes of material from this site in Murrieta, but unfortunately it came with very little data or context. There is a fairly large amount of mastodon material included, including partial lower jaws with teeth and several limb elements, that are all consistent with a single individual. We’re still in the process of preparing some of the other material.

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