Fossil Friday – mastodon molar

This August we’re opening a major new exhibit and hosting an associated workshop at Western Science Center, Valley of the Mastodons. In the lead-up to the exhibit/workshop, I’m going to be talking about mastodons even more than usual.

The specimen shown above is a heavily-worn tooth in occlusal view. The anterior end of the tooth is at the top, and two corners are broken off. Based on the size, shape, and wear pattern, this appears to be an upper right 1st molar.

Below is a lateral (labial) view, with anterior to the right:


In this view it’s clear that this tooth is almost completely worn away. The wear is heaviest at the anterior end, which is typical for proboscideans with horizontal tooth replacement. As this is an upper tooth, the wear is actually lighter on this side than on the medial (lingual) surface.

This tooth was found along the San Diego Canal, apparently near the mastodon jaw we CT scanned a few weeks ago. However, it doesn’t appear to be from the same animal, as that specimen had apparently lost its first molars some substantial amount of time prior to its death. This tooth, as well as nearly all of our other mastodon remains, will be on display this August in Valley of the Mastodons.

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