Teen casually finds prehistoric Mastodon jawbone in Iowa

By Death Wish Coffee — / Death Wish Coffee Blog

Science: The Era of a Primeval Giant

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

If you've been following along for awhile, you know that behind coffee, we have a deep love for anything science related. This blog is no different — grab a cup of coffee and get ready for some SCIENCE!

Recently, a teenager in Iowa was combing for arrowheads and found a 30-inch jawbone instead. Casual. 

The landowners of the farm notified the University of Iowa Paleontology team, who confirmed it was a jawbone of a young mastodon and then gathered the mandible and other bones recently. The mastodon is believed to have been 7 feet tall.

The Iowa farmers donated the bone to the University’s Paleontology Repository and requested to not be named, to protect the farm from potential trespassers who could comb their property looking for more fossil finds. The farmers assumed they’d found mammoth bones around 30 years ago, according to WHOTV.

“So perhaps our identification of mammoth was incorrect. We rushed to the cabinets, we carefully lifted out the bones, took some photographs of them and sent them to a specialist,” Tiffany Adrain, the head of the University of Iowa Paleontology Repository said to WHOTV. “Right away you know it’s mastodon because of these teeth.”

Mastodons appeared 27 million to 30 million years ago and were the smaller cousins in the family of giants that also included the Mammoth. Both are prehistoric relatives of the elephant but are standalone species of colossal proportions.

According to LiveScience, there are differences between mammoths and mastodons other just in size. Mastodons had blunt, cone-shaped molars that crushed vegetation which helped name the species by naturalist Georges Cuvier.

Mastodons also had smaller ears and foreheads that were covered in thick hair, which could grow up to 35 inches long. Tusks were found on bulls only and could grow to approximately 8 feet in length.

Mastodons primarily roamed North and Central America and recently left evidence of their existence on an Iowa farm.

On a recent Fueled by Death Show, our host Jeff recently uncovered a wooly mammoth in this episode delightfully called “Jurassic Park: Could it become reality?”

In this particular episode, scientist found the molecular connections between mammoths and African elephants, which confirms they are descendants of the giants of the earth we know today.

Further research by Dr. Akira Irtani confirms that some well-preserved mammoth fossils retain cell nuclei that can be reconstituted in currently living embryos. Life finds a way, right?


There are many theories as to what caused mastodon extinction approximately 10,000 years ago. Two of the major theories about the causes of their demise are around prehistoric overkill and climatic change according to Simon Fraser University.

Watch the video from Fueled by Death Show below to learn more. 

Angela Garrity is a guest blogger for Death Wish Coffee Co. Her work can be found in Vapun Magazine as well as on their website

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