Runner Finds Prehistoric Mastodon Tooth While Running


When most runners lace up their favorite running shoes and head out the door for a workout, they are anticipating the challenges and glories of going for a run. 

We expect to feel some amount of discomfort, but we understand that there are physical and mental health benefits of running that make the difficulties of a hard workout more than worth it.

That said, what we don’t typically expect is making an amazing discovery while logging our training miles.

However, that’s exactly what happened to runner Jim Smith of Santa Cruz, California when he was on his run this past Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

While running along the Rio Del Mar Beach in California, Jim Smith discovered a prehistoric mastodon tooth.

Mastodons, which went extinct after the Ice Age some 2000 years ago, are often considered large, prehistoric elephants.

These massive creatures inhabited what is currently North and Central America.

Most people would imagine that anyone who came upon such a fascinating relic from thousands of years ago would immediately grab up the artifact and bring it to a natural history museum or find some other way to get it into the hands of someone who could verify its authenticity.

However, apparently, that’s not what happened in the case of this particular mastodon tooth.

Reportedly, a tourist enjoying the same Californian beach came across the massive tooth just last week and she posted photos of it on social media.

According to an interview with Wayne Thompson, a paleontology collections advisor for the Santa Cruz County Museum of Natural History, Thompson came across the photos on social media and reached out to the woman who had spotted a giant prehistoric tooth.

As Thompson said in his interview with KRON 4“I practically hit the floor. It was a mastodon tooth, right in the same area where we know mastodons lived in Santa Cruz County.”

The next day, a group of workers and volunteers from the Santa Cruz County Museum of Natural History went to retrace the steps of the tourist who first discovered the mastodon tooth along the sands of the Rio Del Mar Beach.

Unfortunately, despite combing the beach in shifts over the Memorial Day weekend, the collective team was unable to find the tooth of the prehistoric beast and it seemed to be lost forever.

Until, of course, runner Jim Smith spotted the elusive ancient artifact on his run.

Smith, acting with the utmost integrity, turned over the mastodon tooth to the Santa Cruz County Museum of Natural History after hearing about the frantic and fruitless search on the news.

The runner proudly and responsibly delivered the tooth out to Liz Broughton, the visitor experience manager at the Museum. 

The very grateful staff at the Santa Cruz County Museum of Natural History reported that they will do some further study and analysis on the fossil before it becomes part of the public collection that museum patrons can see.

In the meantime, Jim Smith is excited to see if he is able to discover any other Macedonian fossils or bones as he gets in his mileage.

Even if your own stomping grounds for your daily runs don’t seem like the type of place where you will make such a monumental discovery, you never know what you will encounter.

Be it an ancient artifact, a couple of coins dropped by someone walking in your neighborhood, or just something about yourself as a runner or person, never stop putting on your “discovery hat“ when you run because you never know what you will find.

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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