A 12,000-year-old tooth from a long extinct species of mammoth has been discovered in the city of Gómez Palacio, Durango, the first of its kind to turn up in that region.
The discovery was completely fortuitous, said a paleobiologist at the Juárez University of the State of Durango (UJED) because researchers were actually looking for seashells at the time.
They were hunting for fossilized mollusc shells in a highway excavation near the dry bed of the Nazas River when biologist José Luis Estrada found the 30-centimeter-long tooth 10 meters below the surface of the ground.
Preliminary analysis told the specialists that what they had in their hands was the molar of a large mammal. After sharing their data with other universities in Mexico it was confirmed that the tooth once belonged to a mammoth.
Experts in Mexico and the United States are studying photographs of the specimen in order to determine to which of the two native mammoth species it belongs.
Further studies by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have dated the molar to the Late Pleistocene, with an estimated age of between 12,000 and 15,000 years.
INAH archaeologist Cindy Sandoval Mora reported that while this is the first mammoth fossil found in the city of Gómez Palacio, evidence of wildlife from that era has been found elsewhere in the state, including fossilized bones of mammoths, gomphotheres (an extinct elephant species), bison, horses and camels.
The tooth is to remain in the Comarca Lagunera city and will be a valuable addition to the fossil collection found at the Regional Center of Education for Conservation, administered by UJED.