Three young boys from Bovina, Mississippi, recently had the nice surprise of falling on a mastodon jaw, lying in the freshly plowed mud.
The Shawn brothers and Caid Sellers and their cousin Michael Mahalitc were walking on the Sellers homestead, reports The Vicksburg Post, when they came across the fossil. According to George Phillips, curator at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, the jawbone belonged to an adult specimen. The three boys also told the Vicksburg Post that they had trouble lifting the bone which, as can be seen in the picture above, could fill a small bathtub.
The mastodons were prehistoric mammals with giant tusks and horns, akin to woolly mammoths and modern elephants. They appeared between 27 and 30 million years ago, mainly in North America and Central America. In comparison, woolly mammoths appeared about 5.1 million years ago. The mastodons disappeared about 10,000 years ago, probably as a result of climate change experienced at the time and / or because of hunting.
The mastodons were a little smaller than the modern elephants, which can reach 4.3 meters in height and weigh up to 7 tons. But, with their 3 meters height and their 4 to 6-ton weight, the mastodons were still formidable big animals. Like their largest woolly cousins, the mastodons were covered with hair and sported long tusks, some as long as 2.5 meters. They did not curl on the other hand as much as the mammoths. In contrast, female mastodons had no tusks.
It is not so rare to find bones of mastodons in Mississippi, reads The Vicksburg Post. According to the curator of the museum, this is the third jaw of a mastodon found in just a few weeks.