Mystery Fossil for National Fossil Day

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    Victor Perez

    Hi Everyone! I found this fossil in Rattlesnake Creek here in Gainesville, FL after Hurricane Matthew. The way it’s broken makes it a tricky one to identify. Let me know what you think it is! I’ve uploaded photos from a few different angles to help you out. It’s about 2 cm vertical length.

    @lcone @cferrara @acurrier @bostickkw @jon-cartier @matthew-croxton @joyce-drakeford @evan-taylor @gsantos @mhendrickson @jkallmeyer @lmccall @maggie-paxson @michael-reagin @llundgren

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    Lisa Lundgren

    @vperez, weird! It looks like a completely different fossil from the ventral side (the 3rd image, no.3756, is the ventral side, right?). I’m thinking it’s broken and tumbled, so not the whole fossil. Doesn’t look like a shark tooth, too wide and too many bumps that aren’t sharp…I don’t think it’s a tooth from something else either. Hmmm. I am stumped.


    @vperez Whoa. That’s a worn fossil.

    . I agree. I don’t think its a tooth either.

    At first glance, because of the curvature of the fossil and what might be an articular surface, my reaction was I was looking at a phalanx or the distal end of a radius. Though, I’m not sure now after looking through some other photos I have. I don’t know how much of the shape is from weathering. But IMG 3756. If that is an articular surface, it looks weird, but might be the key to figuring it out.

    Aaron Wood

    @vperez, it appears to be a broken lower third molar of Metaxytherium, an extinct genus of dugong.  Image 3756 is the crown view whereas image 3737 looks like the anterior or mesial view with a nice facet showing where it wore against the lower second molar.

    Cool find!  Makes me jealous, because I used to live along Rattlesnake Creek in Gainesville.  All I ever found were shark teeth, which are interesting in their own right, but not as interesting as a dugong (note my bias as a mammalian paleontologist).

    William Howat

    The third photo makes me think that it may be a really beat up fish ballast bone (tilly bone)…


    I would also agree that it is probably not a tooth, since I see no enamel…


    Hope this helps!



    Victor Perez

    Thank you everyone for playing our National Fossil Day game! The fossil is in fact a hyperostosis from a fish (sometimes called a tilly bone as @william-howat aptly suggested). @jnance suggested it’s from a spadefish (Ephippidae).

    you fell into the trap. When I first found this I thought I had found a dugong tooth and was very excited, but under greater inspection realized it was a tilly bone. It has a texture very characteristic of fish bone. However, don’t feel bad because I showed this to a lot of people here are UF and about half thought it was either Metataxytherium or a peccary tooth at first.

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