Monday, 25 March 2013

Thanks for the mammoth tooth!

It was just another day at work for Environment Agency worker Simon McHugh when he spotted an unusual looking object sitting in a pool of water on the gravel riverbed of the River Otter in East Devon. The biodiversity technical officer, who had been assessing the extent of erosion of the river bank, recognised the 20cm long object as a tooth - but was astounded to realise he had stumbled upon a mammoth molar which could be up to 70,000 years old.

Experts at the Natural History Museum have confirmed that the tooth is not only a interesting find, but a rare one too - only a handful of mammoth teeth have been found in the UK, with just two being found in Devon. In fact, this is the first find of its kind since the 1800s.

The massive molar close-up
A mammoth discovery - a 20cm long, upper right molar tooth.
The sizable tooth weighs in at a hefty 2.2kg -  much heavier than it would have been sitting in the mouth of its original mammoth owner. This is due to the fossilisation process, which saw the tooth absorb silica or other minerals over time, slowly becoming petrified.

So, after surviving Ice Ages and tens of thousands of years, what's next for the River Otter mammoth tooth? As big as it is and as tough as it looks, it firstly needs some conservation to prevent it drying out too quickly and crumbling to dust. Once it's preserved, it's destined to go on display at Exeter Museum - reminding people that once upon a time, just a few thousand years ago, beasts with individual teeth as long as an iPad were once numerous in southern England...



2 comments:

  1. wow, you amazed us by this article, we are so lucky to see this kind of 70,000 y/o tooth! I have seen so many videos about this and hopefully I can find some old tooth here in our place too!

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