Six-year-old Julian Gagnon thought he found a dragon's tooth while hiking with his family last month. But analysis showed that it was a 12,000-year-old mastodon tooth. It has been donated to the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology. As a reward, the boy and his family will receive a special tour of the university's research museum center.

 Mastodon Tooth Found in Michigan by a 6-Year-Old Boy Who Thought It Was From A Dragon
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Mastodon tooth fossil found in Porter County, Indiana.

Rare Mastodon Tooth Found in Michigan

Julian had made an incredible discovery of an ancient animal fossil that once lived on the planet, a real headstart for his dream job of becoming a paleontologist. According to Miami Herald, the Michigan boy was on a hiking trip with his family on September 6 at Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve in Rochester Hills when he found something that he initially thought was a rock or even a dragon's tooth.

"I found it and said 'oh this is a cool rock,' " Julian said in an interview with ABC's Will Ganss. "And my mom said 'uhh is this actually a rock?'"

His mother, Mary Gagnon, said her son was hopeful he had found a dragon's tooth during their family hike, but it was not what he had found. Julian recalled that he felt something under his foot and grabbed it up.

Analysis showed that what Julian found was an ancient mastodon tooth that had been buried for 12,000 years. Experts from the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology verified that the mystery object was an ancient tooth, specifically an upper right molar of a young mastodon.

Adam Rountrey, the museum's research collection manager, told Michigan Live that the mastodon tooth that Julian found could be the size of a baseball and softball and is not a mammoth tooth.

Julian is donating the ancient fossil to the museum, and as a reward, he and his family will take part in a special tour of the museum this month. Mary said that this discovery only fueled his son's passion for archaeology and paleontology. Now, it is hard to dissuade the boy from picking any other career after making his first discovery.

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Mastodons in Michigan

Rountrey said that mammoths and mastodon fossils are rarely found in Michigan. However, the frequency that anyone has found a fossil of either species is greater in this state compared to other places in the United States.

He pointed out that in 2015, a farmer found woolly mammoth bones in Chelsea that were likely butchered by early human hunters from thousands of years ago.

To date, pieces from about 300 mastodons have been found in Michigan over the past decades. However, only less than ten of them were complete, such as the one researchers from the University of Michigan found in 2016.

Despite having a resemblance with mammoths, the National Park Service wrote that mastodons were shorter and stockier. Additionally, they have straighter tusks than mammoths, and their molars have pointed cones adapted to eating woody browse.

In April 2002, mastodons were declared as Michigan's state fossil after several discoveries of fossils of the ancient animal that lived in the state and North America and disappeared 10,000 years ago.

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