The Hyde Park Mastodon Fact Sheet
(Last Updated January 16th, 2003)

In August of 1999 Larry Lozier hired an excavator to deepen the pond in the backyard of his home in suburban Hyde Park, New York. A week later, when the excavator had finished, Larry and his wife Sheryl noticed what they thought was a log lying beside the pond. When they examined it more closely they found it was an enormous bone (which turned out to be a humerus or upper forelimb bone). A few hours on the internet convinced Larry that he had found remains of a mastodon, and he began to contact professional paleontologists to come and check out his discovery.

Drilling into the lower teeth of the Hyde Park Mastodon forscientific study

PRI staff and volunteers drained and explored the pond site in June, 2000, without finding any additional bones. A second trip in late August was more rewarding, and the rest of the skeleton was finally located in the bottom of the pond on August 21

The excavation lasted 6 weeks, with the help of hundreds of volunteers from Vassar College, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Mount Holyoke University, SUNY New Paltz and The Boston Museum of Science, among others. 95% of the bones were recovered, including both tusks, the skull and all major limb bones.

At left:Narissa Russel, Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University, helps with the mapping of the bones.
At right: Jim Sherpa admiring the 8 foot long tusk still in place in the mud at the bottom of the pond. (photo courtesy Spencer Ainsley of the Poughkeepsie Journal)

It was determined that the Hyde Park specimen is an American mastodon (Mammut americanum), probably an older adult male (30-40 years old) that may have weighed as much as 10,000 -15,000 pounds (4,500 - 6,800 kg) when alive. It lived approximately 11,500 radiocarbon years ago...which is equal to 11,500 BC. There is a chance that Native Americans laid eyes on this animal when he was alive, though there is no evidence to indicate that humans had any direct impact on its death.

Above:The Discovery Channel films the science behind the bones, as PRI's Jim Sherpa discusses the conditions of the mastodon's remains. Meanwhile, the sound man and producer make sure everything is just right.

At least 10 species of trees are represented in the ancient sediments that lined the bottom of the pond, including several species that live far north of the Hudson Valley (near Hudson Bay in north-central Canada) today. This indicates that the climate of the lower Hudson Valley 15,000 years ago was similar to the climate of Hudson Bay today. That's cold!

The bones have been shipped to the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, where a scientific-quality cast will be made of the skeleton. There, they will be studied by vertebrate paleontologist Dr. Daniel Fisher, a leading authority on mastodons in North America.

Next up for the Hyde Park Mastodon: he will be mounted by a company in Alberta, Canada, and on display at PRI's new Museum of the Earth, opening in summer, 2003.

What is a mastodon?

Mastodons are extinct relatives of modern elephants which branched off the elephant family tree around 15 million years ago. Mastodons were numerous and widespread in North America up until around 10,000 years ago, when they became extinct together with many other species of large mammals at the end of the last glacial period.

Click Here for a printable pdf line drawing of the bones of a typical mastodon

Contact: Warren D. Allmon, Director, Paleontological Research Institution
1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850
Tel: (607) 273-6623 x 14
Fax: (607) 273-6620

Hyde Park Mastodon
Cornell's Gilbert Mastodon

The Paleontological Research Institution
1259 Trumansburg Road
Ithaca, NY 14850 phone: 607-273-6623 fax: 607-273-6620
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