1812 American Mastodon Jefferson mammoth

1812 American Mastodon Jefferson mammoth

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Mastodon teeth Engraving in Cuvier's "Ossamens Fossiles" (1812). Mammut americanum is a late pliocene/pleistocene relative of the elephants whose fossils are found only in North America. First discovered in 1705, it was ascribed to giants destroyed in the flood. In the mid to late 1700's mastodon fossils were sent from French N. America to Paris. The animal became known as the "animal of Ohio" from its main source. The bones but not teeth resembled those of an elephant, so an elephant and giant hippopotamus were invoked. In 1766 Jefferson was sent specimens, and thought them like the mammoths of Siberia. He was interested in dismissing Buffon's contention that the American fauna was degenerate. He instigated a hunt for a complete skeleton. C.W. Peale succeeded and displayed this specimen in 1801. Patriotic 'mammoth fever' ensued. Cuvier produced the first good descriptions (this plate).

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Keywords: american, animal of ohio, buffon, cuvier, engraving, extinct, flood, fossil, giant, jefferson, mammut americanum, mastadon, mastodont, megafauna, north america, ossamens fossiles, peale, thomas jefferson

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