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A New Jersey Mastodon
Originally Published By
New Jersey State Museum

By Glenn L. Jepsen

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Matilda was young, just past her teens, and not yet full grown, when she died in the ancient peat bog. The ends (epiphyses) of her limb bones had not yet fused to the shafts and the bony discs at the ends of some of her vertebrae were also separate from the solid middle parts. Her incisors or tusks had not reach. ed their full lengths, and they show little sign of the wear that is obvious on the tusks of old mastodons. Each of her splendid pointed tusks extends out of its socket in a gentle and graceful curve for about 21/h feet. From tip of tusk to tail she measured a dainty 15 feet, and at the shoulders she was 71/2 or 8 feet tall. Her head was 21/2 feet high (from top of forehead to base of jaw) and about a yard long (not including the tusks). Her thigh bone was 37 inches long, and she was just a little more than 5 feet wide at the hips. Her dimensions were perfect for Miss Peat Bog of 9000 B. C.

It is remarkable that most of her hyoid bones, thin long elements from near the base of the tongue, were found. They would have been easy for the diggers to overlook, and the fact that they were discovered emphasizes the thoroughness of the search. Discovery of these bones is most unusual for they have been found with only a very few mastodon skeletons.

She had two cheek teeth (molars) in place in the upper and in the lower series on the left side and three on the right above and below, for a total of ten teeth. One tooth, probably the left front upper molar, had dropped out and was found separately. It and the other front teeth (right upper and lower) sere flattened by wear. Each of these three teeth measures about 31/2 inches in length from front to back. Each middle tooth, of the series above and below, is approximately 41/2 inches long. The four rear molars are each about 61/2 inches long and each has four of the tranverse ridges that typify mastodon molars. These teeth had erupted shortly before the animal's death and show little evidence of use in food crushing. Color of the teeth now varies from pearl gray to dark brown or black.

Some of the vertebrae bear marks of injury or disease but the cause of the lesions is unkown. They may have resulted from mechanical damage to the hone or from osteo-arthhitis or tuberculosis. A post mortem diagnosis of bone defects in a mastodon presents difficulties but further study would undoubtedly reveal interesting facts because nearly every skeleton of the "pseudelephant" known shows some effects of violence or sickness.

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