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Ancient American mastodon tooth found in Missouri by teenager

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Ira Johnson is an 18-year-old explorer living in Missouri who made an astonishing find while walking along the Grand River – he discovered a fossilized mastodon tooth. 

Johnson noticed a ‘big rock’ near the water that seemed to be out of the ordinary and when he took it home, he realized it was an ancient tooth.

Researchers who analyzed the remains say it once belonged to an American mastodon that lived during the Pleistocene Epoch some 10,000 years ago.

Mastodons are ancient relatives of the elephants and mammoths that were thought to have been destroyed by humans, but recent DNA testing shows they went extinct long before.

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Ira Johnson is an 18-year-old explorer living in Missouri who made an astonishing find while walking along the Grand River – he discovered a fossilized mastodon tooth

Johnson shares the love of treasure hunting with his father and has been exploring rivers since he was about 5 years old.

‘I usually find silver-plated spoons or just a bunch of junk really,’ Johnson told FOX2now.com.

‘When I was in there looking and I walked over to the water’s edge and I saw the tooth and I didn’t really think much about it because it looked just like a normal rock.’

Johnson spotted the tooth, thinking it was just a rock, and brought it home to show his father whose ‘face brightened.’

The tooth is about the same size as a human hand and was confirmed to have belonged to an American mastodon by researchers at the University of Iowa

Mastodons are ancient relatives of the elephants and mammoths that were thought to have been destroyed by humans, but recent DNA testing shows they went extinct long before

The tooth is about the same size as a human hand and was confirmed to have belonged to an American mastodon by researchers at the University of Iowa.

Another young explorer found a jaw of a mastodon on a farm in southern Iowa last year.

The bone still has a row of teeth attached and is the second fossil to have been discovered on the farm in the last 30 years.

It is thought to have belonged to a young member of the prehistoric animal that may have stood up to seven foot tall and lived in ancient Iowa around 34,000 years ago.

Ira Johnson shares the love of treasure hunting with his father and has been exploring rivers since he was about 5 years old

This is the second Mastodon fossils in 30 years onsite, with the last discovered by the couple who own the farm while fishing on the property.

They have handed over the new bones to the University of Iowa (UI) and has asked to stay anonymous so fossil hunters do not visit their property.

Another young explorer found a jaw of a mastodon on a farm in southern Iowa last year. The bone still has a row of teeth attached and is the second fossil to have been discovered on the farm in the last 30 years

The remains are now kept in a cupboard at the Trowbridge Hall at the University of Iowa.

Tiffany Adrain, collections manager at the UI’s Palaeontology Repository, said these remains are somewhat common, particularly along waterways in Iowa.

‘We were notified a couple of weeks ago that somebody had found a fossil in the middle of a small river on the property.

It is thought to have belonged to a young member of the prehistoric animal that may have stood up to seven foot tall and lived in ancient Iowa around 34,000 years ago

‘It was actually a high school student who had found the object, and the landowners contacted us and notified us [and] sent us photographs.

‘Now we could tell right away it was a jaw bone of a mastodon,’ she added.

These discoveries are more common than people think, said Ms Adrian.

‘I think people are finding stuff all the time,’ she said.

‘Maybe they are out canoeing or fishing on a bank. Farmers, in particular, on the land can spot things pretty easily.’

UI’s Palaeontology Repository has a number of prehistoric fossils from Iowa, many of which are large mammals that lived in the last 150, 000 years.

These include sloths, beavers, short-faced bears, bisons as well as camels.

While it was traditionally thought that mastodons roamed areas in the Arctic and Subarctic when it was covered with ice caps, scientists now think that that the area was only temporarily home to the animals when the climate was warm.

The massive animals’ preferred habitat of forests and wetlands abundant with leafy food.

They also disappeared before humans colonized the region according to radiocarbon dating of fossils from the mammal.

The findings indicated that mastodons suffered local extinction several tens of millennia before either human colonization – the earliest estimate of which is between 13,000 and 14,000 years ago.

They also hinted that the creatures died out before the onset of climate changes at the end of the ice age about 10,000 years ago, when they were among 70 species of mammals to disappear completely in North America.

WHY DID THE MASTODON GO EXTINCT? 

Radiocarbon dating of North American fossils suggests mastodons died out before humans could hunt them to extinction.

Humans have long been blamed for hunting the American mastodon – an ancient relative of the elephant – to extinction.

Experts are still not certain why the animals died out, but now think that changing habitats from forests to tundra could have played a role.

Arctic and Subarctic were only temporary homes to mastodons when the climate was warm, according to the new international study

But new data suggests that mastodons became extinct in pockets of eastern Beringia around 75,000 years ago, following a habitat change from forest to tundra.

Mastodons occupied high latitudes between 125,000 and 75,000 years ago when it was covered with forests.

But ecological changes led to habitat loss and population collapse.

After this, mastodons were limited to areas south of the continental ice sheets where they suffered complete extinction over 10,000 years before the first humans crossed the Bering Strait – or the onset of Pleistocene climate changes.

The study says that local extinction of mastodons were ‘independent; of their later extinction south of the ice.

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