Fri Feb 2, 5:51 PM
By Blake Nicholson
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A mastodon tooth fossil found in an Ontario attic remains a mystery, after a paleontologist concluded it does not belong with a skeleton here that is one of the world's most complete.
John Hoganson with the North Dakota Geological Survey climbed a ladder about three metres this week to take measurements inside the jaw of the skeleton in the North Dakota Heritage Center on the state Capitol grounds.
"The tooth at (the University of) Waterloo was larger than the ones . . . here," he said. "The bottom line is it just would not fit."
The Earth Sciences Museum at the University of Waterloo has on display three mastodon teeth and a tusk that were found in an attic about a year ago and donated to the school. The skeleton in North Dakota's state museum came from the Highgate, Ont., about 30 kilometres northeast of Chatham, more than a century ago.
Mastodons - elephant-like animals with large teeth and tusks - became extinct more than 13,000 years ago.
Hoganson travelled to the University of Waterloo last October to study the teeth. He said at the time that he was fairly certain one of them came from the Bismarck skeleton, based on wear patterns and the fact that the 10-by-seven-centimetre tooth was from the same side of the jaw.
However, after measuring, he found "the tooth up there (at Waterloo) is from another mastodon," he said Friday.
"I'm not necessarily disappointed (but) it would have been nice . . . to kind of close the book," Hoganson said.
He said the skeleton at the Heritage Center is about 80 per cent complete. Other missing parts are a tusk, two leg bones and some toe bones.
Hoganson said the missing tusk apparently was never unearthed. The missing tooth, however, was.
"We have some old correspondence from 100 years ago that indicates that there might have been a tooth that was lost when this animal was on the road being taken around to different fairs and so forth," he said. "There was some indication that a tooth might have been taken during that particular period of time.
"Something happened to it. It got lost or stolen . . . after the animal had been excavated," Hoganson said. "Possibly. It may turn up."
Peter Russell, curator of the Earth Sciences Museum at Waterloo, was out of the office and not available for comment Friday. He said late last year that he would like to keep the mastodon tooth even if it belonged to the Bismarck skeleton.
Hoganson said Friday that he would not have asked for the tooth even if it had come from the North Dakota skeleton.
"The Highgate mastodon came from that part of the world," he said. "It would have been nice to have part of it on display there, too."
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