Michigan's State Fossil
Mastodon? Mammoth? They're both like elephants aren't they? Aren't they the same thing? What's the difference?
They are indeed both like elephants - large herbivorous (plant eating) animals with a "trunk" and tusks, but just as horses and donkeys are similar, they are not the same.
The Mastodon (Mammut americanum) lived in the Eastern United States and ate mostly leaves and twigs from the forests. They were smaller than the Mammoth only reaching 10 feet tall and 4 to 6 tons in weight. Their teeth were shaped for tearing up leaves and chewing twigs, much different than the teeth of their cousins.
The Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) lived mostly on the plains of the western United States and ate the grasses that grew there. They grew to be as much as 14 feet tall, weighed nearly 10 tons and had teeth suited to grinding up grass.
The Mastodon was selected as our state fossil because they lived extensively in our state. We know that because many mastodon skelotons have been found in Michigan. More than 250!
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