On a recent trip to the Staten Island Museum, an institution established in 1881 and dedicated to exploring the connection between natural science, art and history, Untapped Cities Insider and author Laurie Gwen Shapiro made an interesting find. One of the displays contained a giant mastodon tooth that was found right on Staten Island! The display is part of the museum’s current exhibit Remember the Mastodon: Diversity & Preservation, A Richmond County Savings Foundation Exhibition, which explores the history of these extinct furry mammals.
As the display card on the massive molar notes, mastodon remains have been found in various locations throughout the northeastern United States, and many right here on Staten Island. In addition to the molar, the exhibit also contains fossilized bones found in the borough in the 18th and 19th centuries, and pieces from the museum’s 150-plus year collection of flora, and fauna. The presence of these natural artifacts indicate that Staten Island’s natural habit was drastically different today than it was when 10,000 pound mastodons roamed the land between 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago among the huge megafauna that they would use their giant molars to chomp on (mastodons were herbivores).
Scientists have long debated what cause mastodons to go extinct, whether it was hunting, climate change, or even viruses. New research on mastodons of the East Coast points to climate change as a main factor, a point the exhibit highlights as a cautionary tale for our current times. As the museum describes it, “Remember the Mastodon is about the hard facts of extinction, the wonder of enduring species, the importance of biodiversity, and the challenge of preservation.”
You can visit the Remember the Mastodon exhibit, and the full size mastodon replica named Hollick, during museum hours on Wednesdays through Sundays 11:00am to 5:00pm.
Next, check out The Top 12 Secrets of NYC’s Museum of Natural History