New York City Mastodons: Big Apple Tusk
by Sidney Horenstein
Evolution: Education and Outreach
Volume 1, Number 2, 204-209
Manhattan’s first definitive mastodon fossil, a tusk, was exposed in Inwood, today its northern most neighborhood, during April 1885 at Dyckman Street near Broadway. The site is now the Lt. William Tighe Triangle, a small park formed by the intersection of Riverside Drive, Dyckman Street, and Broadway, but in 1885, it was near the western end of great fresh water and salt water marshes that stretched westward from the Harlem River. Elijah A. Howland, a public school principal, found the tusk in a drainage ditch being cut through a peat bog. He brought the specimen, about 15 in. long and 4 in. in diameter, to the American Museum of Natural History for identification, and then kindly left it as a gift. The tusk had been broken; it was probably much longer when originally found and then damaged during the excavation work (Hartnagel and Bishop 1922 p.39). One can only speculate whether this tusk was in any way connected (perhaps literally) to the jaw found down the street 40 years later.
Download a PDF of New York City Mastodons: Big Apple Tusk: https://ringgarden.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/horenstein2008.pdf
by Guy Johnson
The tusk belonged to a Mammut americanum the American mastodon. This elephant-like mammal had a shaggy brown coat and upward-curving tusks. They lived in spruce forests which covered the eastern United Statesand browsed on twigs, leaves, mosses and spruce cones. The mastodons lived in North America2 million years ago until 10,000 when climatic changes disrupted the forest distribution in the northeast.
The mastodon tusk found at the site of RING has been dated at about 13,000 years ago when dense spruce forests covered what is now New York City.