Oct. 4 (UPI) -- A 6-year-old walking with his family in a Michigan nature preserve made a rare discovery: a 12,000-year-old mastodon tooth.
Julian Gagnon, 6, was walking with his family in the Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve on Sept. 6 when he found an object that he initially identified to his parents as a "dragon's tooth."
"I just felt something on my foot and I grabbed it up, and it kind of looked like a tooth," Julian told WDIV-TV.
Julian's parents allowed him to bring his discovery home, where the family took a closer look and realized it might indeed be a fossil.
The family contacted the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontologists, which identified the discovery as the upper right molar of a juvenile mastodon, a species that lived in Michigan about 12,000 years ago.
"Mammoth and mastodon fossils are relatively rare in Michigan, but compared to other places in the United States, there actually have been more occurrences," Adam Rountrey, the paleontology museum's research museum collection manager, told MLive.com.
Experts said that while both mammoths and mastodons are known to have lived in Michigan, discoveries are rare because the carcasses of the animals were usually taken by scavengers far before they could become fossils.
The Gagnon family donated the tooth to the museum, which said Julian will be rewarded for his donated with a behind-the-scenes tour this month.
"This has only fueled his passion for archaeology and paleontology," mother Mary Gagnon said. "As far as he's concerned, this is his first discovery of his career, and now it's hard to dissuade him from picking anything up that he sees in the natural world."