We live in a fascinating world and, if you know where to look, you can uncover bits of its long history. Take this story of a French farmer who happened upon an incredible discovery near the Pyrenees.
In 2014, while working on his land near the village of L’isle-en-Dodon, which sits about 44 miles southwest of the French city of Toulouse, the unnamed worker unearthed a rather large fossil. He knew it was likely an important find, but fearing his farm would be swarmed with amateur paleontologists, the farmer decided to keep it a secret.
When he did finally speak to an official at the Natural History Museum of Toulouse three years later, however, he learned he wasn’t entirely wrong to be concerned. The fossil he had discovered was a landmark find.
The fossil wound up belonging to a Pyrenean mastodon and was the first-ever skull of the species to be located. Described to Agence France Presse by the museum director Francis Duranthon as “a kind of elephant with four tusks measuring around 80 centimeters (30 inches),” the Pyrenean mastodon roamed Europe between 13 to 11 million years ago.
Based on minimal fossil evidence, researchers estimated the mastodon stood approximately 10-feet high and weighed upwards of five tons. It had two tusks protruding from the upper jaw while another set protruded from the lower jaw and were likely used for digging up roots.
The first fossils uncovered of the Pyrenean mastodon in the same region were four teeth discovered in 1857. “Now we have a full skull which will allow us to get a clearer picture of the anatomy of this species,” Duranthon explained to the AFP.
In an interview with Cosmos magazine, Duranthon had a hard time containing his excitement. “I’ve been looking for this species for 35 years, and my professor — he’s dead now, but he was looking for it for 50 years,” he explained. “It is a fantastic discovery.”
The French farmer ultimately gave the fossil to the museum. Currently, it’s in a laboratory being examined and carefully chipped out of its rock casing.
This is the second rare fossil to be uncovered across the Atlantic this year. Earlier, a man stumbled upon Scotland’s first-ever woolly mammoth bone near a lake. Nic Coombey was walking along Loch Ryan near Stranraer in southwest Scotland when he spotted what appeared to be a large bone.
This woolly mammoth bone just washed up on Stranraer beach in southwestern Scotland.
Please do not turn into a driftwood sculpture, crafts-people and shell-hunters. These bones are floating out there in our oceans. #IceAgeScotland pic.twitter.com/oq7vVAn7bg
— Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) June 10, 2018
A giant bone washed up on the shore of Loch Ryan is a puzzle waiting to be solved. The discovery is still to be identified by experts but appears to be a leg bone from a creature that roamed the area during the ice-age, perhaps a #woollyrhinoceros or a #mammoth! #lovedandg pic.twitter.com/q8Bf8IckwN
— Solway Coastwise (@SolwayCoastwise) May 2, 2018
According to IFL Science, when photos of the two-foot-long bone were posted online, initial reaction was that it was just driftwood. Coombey, more optimistic that he really found something important, went to the National Museums of Scotland which confirmed his suspicions.
BIG bone update – experts have confirmed the bone found on the shore of Loch Ryan is most likely to be a woolly mammoth femur and is an very significant find in Scotland! Further research and conservation is required but hopefully we will learn more from this exciting find. pic.twitter.com/qZ19VI5jZP
— Solway Coastwise (@SolwayCoastwise) June 8, 2018