Mastodon Teeth, Collected at Ziegler Reservoir, Snowmass, Colorado in 2010

Object: Mastodon Teeth

Collected at Ziegler Reservoir, Snowmass, Colorado in 2010

Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Colorado, USA

EMu user since 2011



Mastodon TeethCollected from a fossil ecosystem in the Colorado Rockies near Snowmass Village, Colorado, these mastodon teeth record details of the life of three animals. The smallest tooth is likely a “milk” tooth from an infant mastodon that was still nursing. Small dimples on the surface of the tooth indicate that the animal had yet to eat plants as the dimples would be worn away over time. The medium tooth is a highly worn and discarded tooth from a juvenile mastodon, while the largest is from a full grown adult.

Each of these teeth contains layers that were formed daily as the tooth grew during the animal’s life. The patterning of the layers tells us when the animal was stressed during drought years or at the end of the winter season or when it was living under favourable conditions. A female’s tooth can reveal at what time during the year she had young, and a male’s tooth, at what time of the year he entered the mating season or musth.

In just seven weeks, crews from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science unearthed more than 4,500 fossils and identified 20 different vertebrate animals at the Snowmastodon Excavation Site, Ziegler Reservoir, Snowmass, Colorado. The preserved series of Ice Age fossil ecosystems is one of the most significant fossil discoveries ever made in Colorado. The site is estimated to be between 45 and 150 thousand years old.