American Mastodon
Mammut americanum (Kerr)
Description: The most common of these Ice Age mammals in New Jersey was the American mastodon, Mammut americanum. This mastodon is represented at Big Brook by its vertebra, teeth, and other scrappy bone fragments.

The centrum, sometimes with some of the neural arch intact, is usually the only part that is recovered. They are more than likely lacking any of the other structures of the vertebra other than the centrum because they are easily broken unless found insitu. The centrum is cylindrical with slightly concaved sides. The front end is slightly convexed, while the back end is slightly concaved. The centrum is usually about 13 cm (about 5 in) in diameter and about 6 cm (about 2.5 in) thick. They are large and have distinctive mammalian cellular structure. This is unlike dinosaur bone, which all though large, is denser. Most of the Pleistocene bone found, mastodon included, is light brown in color and is not very permineralized, so it does not weigh much for the size.

The teeth of the mastodon are very distinctive. The crown is enamel coated and has 6 to 8 cone shaped cusps, almost resembling a pig molar. The roots can be singular from each cusp or can be attached to themselves.

Complete or partial skeletons are found every once in awhile but mostly in peat bogs in northern New Jersey.

Commonality: Bones from the American mastodon are very uncommon. Teeth are rare.

Similar fossils: Their teeth and other bones are rather large and hard to confuse with other area finds.

Size: This estimated 8 ton animal was among one of the largest in New Jersey at that time. It stood 2 to 3 meters (about 6 to 9 feet) at the shoulders and 5 meters (about 15 feet) long, not including the tail or the 2.5 meter (about 8 feet) long tusks.

Notes: The American mastodon was a large elephant that roamed the open spruce woodlands, usually in low-lying areas such as valleys and swamps. Being covered with a shaggy hair coat, it was well adapted to the cold environment of the Ice Age. The mastodons, along with the mammoth, are now extinct, possibly due to over hunting by Ice Age man. Two of the thirteen New Jersey mastodons that were found in Sussex County are presently on display in the New Jersey State Museum along with some isolated finds.  Another two skeletons that were found in Bergen Co. are going to be on display at the Bergen Museum.
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One cusp form molar
a. Top view  b. Bottom view
Drawing of Thoracic Vertebra
Mammut americanum
Front of Skeleton
(State Museum Specimen, Trenton)
Thoracic Vertebra
a. Front  b. Side  c. Back
(Edward Otte Specimen)
Complete molar
(State Museum Specimen, Trenton)