A young boy has made a shocking discovery, finding the tooth of an ancient giant elephant-like creature which is at least 12,000-years-old.
Six-year-old Julian Gagnon was walking with his family at the aptly named Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve in Michigan, US, last month when he found what was left of a mastodon.
“I just felt something on my foot and I grabbed it up, and it kind of looked like a tooth,” Julian told WDIV-TV.
Mastodons are distant evolutionary relatives of modern day elephants and inhabited North and Central America up until their extinction some 12,000 years ago.
It is thought that the largest mastodons reached around 2.9m (9.5ft) in height and could weigh around 11 tonnes.
When Julian first made the incredibly rare find he told his parent’s that he’d found a “dragon’s tooth”.
“At first I thought I was going to get money, I was going to get a million dollars – that’s so embarrassing right now,” he joked.
It was only after the family brought the find home that Julian’s parents realised it may actually be a fossil.
They contacted the University of Michigan Museum of Palaeontology, who confirmed that it was the upper right molar of a juvenile mastodon.
Mastodon remains are known as “the state’s fossil” in Michigan, and the UM Museum of Natural History (which shares its space with the palaeontology museum) has an exhibition showcasing mastodon remains.
That said, experts still insist that Julian’s find is extremely rare.
Abby Drake, a guide at the museum, explained: “It is hard to be preserved as a fossil. When an animal dies, most of the time they are scavenged.”
The family donated the tooth to the museum which has offered Julian a behind-the-scenes tour later this month.
“This has only fuelled his passion for archaeology and palaeontology,” his mother Mary Gagnon said.
“As far as he’s concerned, this is his first discovery of his career, and now it’s hard to dissuade him from picking anything up that he sees in the natural world.”
Julian added: “I really want to be an archaeologist, but I think that was a sign that I’m going to be a palaeontologist.”
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