Michigan Neighbors Unearth Mastodon Bones in Backyard
They dig up more than 40, will donate to museum
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2015 12:12 PM CST
Ancient mastodon vertebrae bones that Dan LaPoint unearthed excavating a pond on Eric Witzke's property outside Olivet, in Bellevue Township, Mich.   (AP Photo/The State Journal, Rod Sanford)
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(Newser) – Eric Witzke's home is in Bellevue Township, Michigan, but he is clearly not the first one to roam his yard. While he and neighbor Daniel LaPoint were excavating a backyard pond, they happened upon more than 40 mastodon bones, reports ABC News. An expert from the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology confirmed the find and says the bones are from a male mastodon, about age 40, that lived between 10,000 and 14,000 years ago, reports the Lansing State Journal. The two unexpected archaeologists plan to donate the Ice Age bones to the museum. "Finding them was very, very cool," says LaPoint, while the museum official is happy about the "the new perspective, the new information, that specimens like these can bring."

It's not uncommon for bones from the elephant ancestor to turn up in various parts of Michigan, though sometimes the discovery is of a single tusk. In Alaska, meanwhile, the study of mastodon teeth has solved a longstanding puzzle, reports Alaska Dispatch News. Carbon dating had suggested that mastodons roamed Alaska between 10,000 and 75,000 years ago, but that never quite made sense: Alaska had few trees then and mastodons had teeth tailor-made for chomping wood. The new study of tooth enamel shows that mastodons were in the region much earlier, about 120,000 years ago, when trees were more plentiful. (A newly discovered fossil reveals that Scotland once had something akin to a sea monster.)