Tuesday, September 21, 2010

American Mastodon


(Image Source
The American Mastodon (Mammut americanum) was a large tusked mammal that inhabited North American during the late Pleistocene from about 3 million to 11,000 years ago. They stood between eight and ten feet at the shoulder and weighed around 10,000lbs. Mastodons had stocky legs and long hairs covering their bodies. They also had massive tusks, which where more straight then those of their Mammoth cousins.

American Mastodons shared their Pleistocene homes with Mammoths. Though they both belong to the order Proboscidea, Mastodons are classed in the ancient and now completely extinct family of Mammutidae, while Mammoths shared the family of modern Elephants, Elephantidae. The American Mastodon was only the last of the Mastodon line. Members of the family appeared in Africa nearly 40 million years ago, and other species existed in Europe in Asia until about 2 million years ago.

Mastodon Tooth (Image Source)
Mastodons had low, ridged teeth that demonstrate a diet based on leaf browsing. This differs from the teeth of Mammoths which were used for grazing. Another distinction between the two is that the mouth of a Mastodon contained more teeth at one time than that of a Mammoth, though they shared the same number of overall teeth in a lifetime. The conical teeth of the Mastodon are the inspiration for their name. Mastodon means "nipple tooth."

Just this past Sunday it was reported that a new skull of what is believed to be a Mastodon was found in a mine in New Mexico. It measured eight feet long. Unfortunately, the skull crumbled during the excavation process, and will now be painstakingly reassembled. Mastodon fossils are relatively common throughout the United States, especially in the Midwest. A majority of these sites contain Mastodons dated between 40,000 and 11,000 years.

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