Fisherman finds mastodon tooth near Caruthersville

Friday, March 8, 2002

KENNETT, Mo. -- "I knew it had to be old," Rick Crane said, shifting his gaze to the 20,000-year-old petrified fossil of a mastodon's tooth that he had found while fishing in the Mississippi River near Caruthersville, Mo. He said the object just looked interesting, though at first he thought it was just a rock.

Because of the strange shape, Crane picked it up and took it home with him.

When he got home with it, he began to clean it up. Once all the dirt had been washed away Crane noticed that the object he thought was a rock, was not a rock, but instead it looked more like a few teeth and what could possibly be a gum line.

Convinced that maybe what he had brought home from the river wasn't a rock, but a fossil, he began to ask around.

Took to Memphis

He took his find to the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis, Tenn. Some of the experts there told him that it was a tooth that once had belonged to a mastodon some 20,000 years ago.

Crane came back home and wanted a local opinion. He contacted John Scheibe at Southeast State Missouri University in Cape Girardeau who said by Crane's description it either was a giant ground sloth or a mastodon.

Judging by the size, Scheibe said, it was probably not a sloth but a mastodon tooth.

Scheibe instructed Crane to keep it away from changes in climate. Crane had kept it in a padded bag, knowing that while the fossil is petrified, it is still fragile. Since Crane found it, it has not been damaged.

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