Rare mastodon tooth found in Michigan creek by 6-year-old boy

ByMegan Woods, WDIV WABC logo
Monday, October 4, 2021
Michigan boy, 6, finds historic mastodon tooth in creek
A 6-year-old boy found a mastodon tooth while on a family walk in Michigan.

DETROIT, Mich. -- A 6-year-old boy noticed something on the ground while on a family walk in Michigan last month. It turned out to be a mastodon tooth.

Appropriately enough, he found it at the Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve, WDIV reported.

"I just felt something on my foot and I grabbed it up, and it kind of looked like a tooth," 6-year-old Julian Gagnon said.

At first, they thought it was your standard rock, and given the name of the nature center, maybe even a dinosaur tooth.

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However, after a quick Google search, they realized it belonged to a mastodon.

"At first I thought I was going to get money. I was gonna get a million dollars. So embarrassing right now," Gagnon said.

But that's not what happened next.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontologists confirmed the family's hunch.

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Not only that, but that it is a rare discovery.

"Honestly, I'm a little jealous, personally, because mining fossils is something that I wish I could do every day," said Abby Drake with the U of M Museum of Natural History.

They have a pretty rare exhibit on mastodons and while it is known as the state's fossil, finding what's left of them is hard to come by.

"It's hard to be preserved as a fossil when an animal dies, most of the time it is scavenged," Drake added.

Gagnon's dad wanted to throw the tooth back but both the boy and the nature center believe a valuable lesson can be learned from all of this.

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"The great thing about nature is you never know what you're going to find and that even if you are an expert, it doesn't mean that you're going to be the one to find things," said Amanda Felk, program director at Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve.

That's what makes this so incredible. Mastodons date back to 12,000 years and this discovery is a nod to both history and the future.

"I really wanted to be an archaeologist, but I think that was a sign that I'm going to be a paleontologist," Gagnon said.