Wed. May 18th, 2022

A six-year-old boy in Michigan stumbled upon a paleontological treasure while hiking with his family in September.

Julian Gagnon was at the Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve, a place where children are encouraged to explore and interact with nature, when he stumbled upon something resembling a giant tooth – a molar, to be exact. At first, the boy thought it was a dinosaur tooth or possibly even a dragon tooth.

“I just felt something on my foot and I picked it up and it kind of looked like a tooth,” Gagnon told NBC-affiliated WDIV.

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After a quick Google search, the family realized that the tooth did not belong to a dinosaur. They gave the specimen to researchers at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology (UMMP), who confirmed that it was the crown of a molar of a mastodon, an ancient, hairy elephant-like creature that last roamed the earth about 10,000 years ago. They first appeared about 27 million to 30 million years ago and could weigh up to six tons.

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Visitors walk past a Mastodon skeleton exhibit at the opening of the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton on October 3, 2018.

THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jason Franson

Initially, Gagnon thought he had hit the jackpot.

“At first I thought I was going to get money,” he said. “I would get a million dollars.”

Then he realized he had found a historical gem instead of a penny.

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Even scientists were amazed at the discovery, which they confirm is unusually rare. They estimate that the mastodon was young when it died, probably around 20 years old.

“I’m a little jealous because fossil mining is something I want to do every day,” Abby Drake of the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History told NBC News 18.

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“The find is extremely exciting as it is difficult to find a preserved fossil as most animals are removed after death.”

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Gagnon is donating the hand-sized tooth to UMMP for further research, and the boy has potentially found his future career path. Michigan Live reports that Gagnon was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor Research Museums Center and a meeting with paleontologists.

“I really wanted to be an archaeologist, but I think that was a sign that I needed to be a paleontologist,” he said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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