Who owned this tooth?!

get-attachment-48Really doesn’t have much to do with the dino sculpture my son created, next to the THANG  on our family’s fireplace matel. But I bet Carl Zimmer has a guess. I recall the time I brought this heavy THANG into HIS office at Discover. Back when HE had a windowed office and I did not. Cut me a break, HE was 28, I was still young…and, oh yeah, there was that AAAS award he won for “God-like writers under the age of 30”.

I asked, genuflecting upon entering his office, as we all did: “Carl, what do you think this is? My father-in-law found it in a local, Long Beach Island, NJ, fishing shop.”

HE said: “Looks like a Mastodon tooth, maybe a molar. Probably a young one because it’s not worn down too far. You should take this to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philly, near where you live,  and I bet they can tell you more.”

So I did. I pulled the THANG out of my baby’s diaper bag, and asked the resident paleontologist: “What do you think this THANG is?”

He replied: “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT? DID YOU STEAL THAT?!”

I spent the next hour ‘splainin’ the situation. Hey, Carl, back then, they never heard of YOU. The best thing I had going for me was the real baby in the real baby stroller…and two, twenty dollar bills.

But I digress.

I never did learn more about the origins of this tooth. Who knows more about this tooth? Closest to the tooth-truth earns a Tshirt. And now that I FINALLY have some street-cred with the National Academy of Sciences, I know I can find the answer there if you all fail. 🙂

  • It looks like a mammoth tooth. Mastodon teeth have cusps and are smaller than a mastodon’s. The French naturalist Cuvier coined the name “mastodont.” He thought the cusps looked like breasts, hence the “masto.” When he heard about the name, Jefferson translated it as “booby toothed.” As we all know, the Enlightenment was a golden age for dirty old men.

    The parallel plates mark it as a mammoth or elephant. The number (lots) identify it as a mammoth.

  • It looks like a mammoth tooth. Mastodon teeth have cusps and are smaller than a mastodon’s. The French naturalist Cuvier coined the name “mastodont.” He thought the cusps looked like breasts, hence the “masto.” When he heard about the name, Jefferson translated it as “booby toothed.” As we all know, the Enlightenment was a golden age for dirty old men.

    The parallel plates mark it as a mammoth or elephant. The number (lots) identify it as a mammoth.

  • PS – As to Woolly or Imperial/Columbian/Jefferson (one, two, or three, depending on who you ask), I’m not much help. But, I’d guess Woolly.

  • PS – As to Woolly or Imperial/Columbian/Jefferson (one, two, or three, depending on who you ask), I’m not much help. But, I’d guess Woolly.

  • Oh hell, I’m feeling gregarious. Since your ather-in-law found it in a fishing shop, it was probably dredged up by a fishing boat. During the last ice age, the seas were quite a bit lower. On the eastern seaboard, this exposed vast amounts of land. The ice sheet covered most of New England and New York, but the areas that are now the richest fishing banks were un-iced and probably covered with mammoth steppe. And mammoths. It’s not uncommon for fishermen in the north to dredge up tusks and teeth. It’s so common in the North Sea that some of the leading mammoth experts are Dutch. Along the Siberian coast between the Lena River and the Kolyma, Spring storms wash up enough ivory that beach combing comprises a significant part of the local economy.

    Okay, I’ll stop now.

  • Oh hell, I’m feeling gregarious. Since your ather-in-law found it in a fishing shop, it was probably dredged up by a fishing boat. During the last ice age, the seas were quite a bit lower. On the eastern seaboard, this exposed vast amounts of land. The ice sheet covered most of New England and New York, but the areas that are now the richest fishing banks were un-iced and probably covered with mammoth steppe. And mammoths. It’s not uncommon for fishermen in the north to dredge up tusks and teeth. It’s so common in the North Sea that some of the leading mammoth experts are Dutch. Along the Siberian coast between the Lena River and the Kolyma, Spring storms wash up enough ivory that beach combing comprises a significant part of the local economy.

    Okay, I’ll stop now.

  • You win, John! Thanks for the terrific insight. Email your mailing address to me and I’ll send you a Tshirt! darlene@sciencecheerleader.com

    So, how old do you think this mammoth tooth is?

  • You win, John! Thanks for the terrific insight. Email your mailing address to me and I’ll send you a Tshirt! darlene@sciencecheerleader.com

    So, how old do you think this mammoth tooth is?