Fossil Friday – mammoth tooth


With the influence of Max Mastodon, Diamond Valley Lake mammoths sometimes get short shrift around here. But while DVL mammoths are not nearly as common as mastodons, there is still plenty of interesting mammoth material.

The tooth shown above is an upper molar, probably the second molar, with the anterior end of the tooth to the right. This is the occlusal view showing the transverse enamel ridges that are typical of mammoths and other members of the family Elephantidae, including the modern elephants. (Mastodons are proboscideans, but not elephantids, which is reflected in their different tooth structure.) Below is a medial view, with anterior to the left:


Because mammoths (like other advanced proboscideans) had horizontal tooth replacement, the anterior end of the tooth erupts first, with the upper teeth moving forward and down over time. That means the front of the tooth has seen more use than the back of the tooth, which is clear in medial view. The front of the tooth is very short because it has been almost completely worn away, while the back of the tooth is still tall, with very little wear.

This specimen, which was associated with another tooth and several other cranial fragments, was recovered from near the East Dam of Diamond Valley Lake. Most of the dated sediments from that end of the lake are among the older DVL deposits, from about 35,000 to 45,000 years old.

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