Mastodons, mammoth beasts with tusks, once called New Jersey home. And fossilized remains of the ancient animals have been found in all corners of the state.
A report released Tuesday, “Garden State Mastodons,” details the extent of the mastodons' former reign over the state. Researchers with the Department of Environmental Protection’s New Jersey Geological and Water Survey and the State Museum authored the report.
“Of the many types of ice-age animals that inhabited New Jersey, the mastodon may be the most famous because it is relatively common in the fossil record,” said State Geologist Jeffrey L. Hoffman, “even though their time here, geologically speaking, was relatively short.”
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Since 1800, more than 50 fossils have been found in the state, at least one in 15 counties. The remains range from fully intact skeletons to standalone bones and tusks. The mastodon common to the area was a shorter, stockier breed than their woolly mammoth cousins, the report states.
Carbon dating of the fossils puts the mastodons in New Jersey around 10,995 to 12,730 years ago, when the bottom edge of the Wisconsin ice sheet cut through modern day Warren and Morris counties. That means more remains have been found in North Jersey, where researchers say mastodons may have been caught in bogs at the edge of the ice and drowned. Many were found off the coast, from an age when the sea level was significantly lower. Those, researchers say, were discovered during scallop dredging.
“People wanting to find mastodon fossils are not likely to be dredging ponds or working a fishing dredge in the Atlantic Ocean,” the report states. “However, mastodon fossils are readily available for viewing at locations throughout New Jersey.”
The remains are on display around the state. The Rutgers Geology Museum houses the only full skeleton discovered in the state, the Mannington Mastodon. Newton’s Sussex County Historical Society Museum has the skull and tusks of one “Moe,” who was found in 1962. And at the State Museum, visitors can see lower jaw of the Bojak mastodon, discovered in Warren County in 1971, as well as a mastodon found in Holmdel in 2013.