A woman walking on the beach in California during Memorial Day Weekend found something strange sticking out of it: a molar from an ancient mastodon.
The fossil disappeared, but it was only found after a media campaign and by a kindhearted jogger.
Jennifer Schuh discovered the tooth, which was about a foot long, sticking out of the sand at the mouth Aptos Creek in Rio Del Mar State Beach. Rio Del Mar State Beach is located near Monterey Bay on the central coast of California.
Schuh recalled: “I was on the one side of the creek, and this lady was speaking to me on my other side. She said what’s at your feet?” It looked like it was almost burned.
Schuh was unsure of what she found. She posted some pictures on Facebook and asked for help.
Wayne Thompson, the paleontology collection advisor at Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, provided the answer.
Thompson identified the object as a worn molar of an adult Pacific Mastodon – an elephant-like extinct species.
Thompson urged Schuh, in a letter, to contact him.
When they returned to the beach the tooth had disappeared.
The weekend search was unsuccessful. Thompson sent out an appeal on social media for help to find the artifact. The appeal made headlines around the world.
Jim Smith, a resident of Aptos in the nearby area, called the museum on Tuesday.
Liz Broughton is the visitor experience manager at the museum. She said, “I was thrilled to receive that call.” Jim told us he found it on one of his regular beach runs, but was not sure what he’d found until he spotted a photo of the tooth in the news.
Smith donated his tooth to the museum. It will be displayed from Friday until Sunday.
The age of the teeth is not known. According to a museum blog, mastodons roamed California between 5 million and 10,000 years ago.
Broughton wrote in an email that “we can safely say that this specimen is less than one million years old.”
Broughton stated that it is not uncommon for winter storms to uncover fossils and may have been washed into the ocean from higher above.
Schuh is excited that her discovery could unlock ancient secrets of the tranquil beach area. She didn’t save the tooth but ordered a replica necklace on Amazon.
She said, “You don’t get to touch anything from history very often.”
This is only the third local mastodon fossil found. A tooth and a skull found in 1980 by an adolescent are also on display at the museum. The tooth was discovered in Aptos Creek, which empties into the sea.
The museum’s Executive Director, Felicia B., said: “We are excited about this exciting find and its implications for our understanding ancient life in the region.” Van Stolk made a statement.