Boys dig up prehistoric mastodon fossil in Mississippi

BOVINA, Miss. Three boys unearthed a fossil that could be nearly 100,000 years old all while playing near their backyard in a plowed area. 12-year-old Caid Sellers along with his 10-year-old brother Shawn Sellers and cousin Michael Mahalitc, discovered an ancient mastodon jawbone during their spring break late last month.

It’s not uncommon to find petrified wood in the area so the three boys didn’t think much about what they saw until they uncovered something unique.

“I thought it was a log,” Caid Sellers told Fox News. “I tried to pick it up and it was really heavy and I saw teeth on it.”

Mastodon Jaw Bone

A mastodon jawbone sits in a bin to dry out after being discovered and dug up by three boys in Bovina, Miss., which is near the Mississippi River. The fossil weighs around 50 puonds.  (Fox News)

Caid says they couldn’t move the fossil up a hill towards the house so they had to use a golf cart to carry it the rest of the way. The ancient piece of bone weighs nearly 50 pounds.

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All three boys, who are avid baseball players, never thought to take an interest into paleontology before their discovery but after finding the mastodon fossil they hope to learn more. The boys’ parents say they’re excited about the rare find.

“They didn’t expect to find that,” Hillary Mahalitc, Michael’s mother said. “Now that they have, I believe that they will be more aware of their surroundings and what they’re digging up when they are digging and playing.”

Caid and Shawn’s mother Lynett Welch says they have found old artifacts before, but nothing like this.

“We’ve gotten a lot of petrified wood [and] Civil War relics from the area and that’s what I thought it was,” Welch said. “This is our first set of teeth we’ve found. So we thought it was their imagination. We we’re quite surprised to see that it was not their imagination.”

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The family originally thought the fossil was a dinosaur bone but with a call to a paleontologist they were able to learn about its true origins. Mastodons were commonly found throughout North and Central America during the Ice Age, which was 2.4 million to 11,000 years ago. According to paleontologist and curator at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science George Phillips, bones and fragments have been recovered throughout parts of region, which is near the Mississippi River.

Mastodon Fossil

A mastodon skull and tusks sit on display at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. The giant Ice Age-era beasts are often confused with mammoths and elephants.  (Fox News)

“We find pieces of Ice Age creatures all the time,” Phillips said. “You might find a fragment of a mastodon tooth or perhaps part of a bone but they found a really intact half lower jaw with two teeth. So everything seems to be intact.”

Phillips says mastodons are often confused with mammoths and elephants but they are distinctly different and belong to their own animal family. He added that the fossil the boys found could be anywhere from just over 11,000 to 100,000 years old but he hopes to get a more accurate read of the age after observing and analyzing the specimen up close.

Could there be more ancient mastodon bones to discover? Phillips says it’s unlikely but the boys hope there’s more to dig up.

“It’d be really cool if we found the body and stuff,” Caid said.

The family has plans to preserve the fossil and turn it into a memento or perhaps a coffee table but no firm decision has been made. They will meet with Phillips in the coming weeks to get tips on the best way to preserve the fossil.
 

Willie James Inman is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Jackson, Mississippi. Follow him on twitter: @WillieJames