Davy Villanueva hoped the fish would be biting when he went out to the San Antonio River a few weeks ago, but he never imagined he'd see a tooth bigger than the size of his two fists.
The Karnes City, Texas, fisherman found what he believes is a tooth from a mastodon, the big-tusked behemoths that roamed North America as far back as 3.75 million years ago, according to Illinois State Museums. The mammoth-related beasts became extinct 11,000 years ago.
Villanueva told KENS 5 TV in San Antonio that the recent drought had lowered river levels so much that he found the tooth in about a foot of water.
“I walked in the river and reached down in there and pulled it out, and wow, I have never seen anything like this,” Villanueva told the local station.
Villanueva won't reveal exactly where he found the pronged tooth -- not even to his wife, Patty Cruz. He thinks there may be more remains at the spot, but recent rains have raised water levels too high to explore further.
"It's certainly a mastodon tooth--lower molar, probably a young animal because it's apparently unworn, or little worn," Dr. Ross MacPhee, a mammologist at the American Museum of Natural History, told The Huffington Post in an e-mail after seeing video of Villanueva's discovery. "Finds are often made along watercourses like old river beds and lake margins. Mastodons seem to have preferred lacustrine and riparian habitats."
Fossils of the mastodon from the Pleistocene Epoch turn up fairly regularly, MacPhee said. Sets of prehistoric choppers have been found in an Oklahoma backyard, an Oregon construction site and a Wisconsin trout stream.
Mastodon teeth are considered collectibles and can be bought on eBay. Villanueva said he's been offered $500 for his mighty molars but turned it down. He said he might donate the seven-pointed tooth to a museum or college.
He's also thinking of giving the tooth to his 7-year-old son but told KENS 5, “He’s scared of it. He says, 'Papo, go put it back in the water because it keeps raining.' "
See video of the mastodon tooth at KENS 5 by clicking here.
Also on HuffPost:
This North American bird, which stood over 8 feet tall, would have had an enormous, axe-like beak.
This heavily-armored predator had the second most powerful bite of any fish.
The hornless rhinoceros-like creatures of this genus were the largest land mammals of all time.
Giant ground sloths of this genus were about the size of today's elephants. The megatherium only went extinct around 10,000 years ago (right around the time when humans started farming), and smaller relatives may have survived as late as the 16th century!
Richard Owen, director of London's Museum of Natural History, stands next to the largest of all moa. Moa, which originated in New Zealand, were flightless, and some were even wingless.
The Argentavis magnificens, an early relative of the Andean Condor, was the largest flying bird ever discovered.
These creatures, the largest marsupials that ever lived, roamed Australia. Some scientists have suggested that stories of the supernatural 'bunyip' creature in Aboriginal folklore could be based on diprotodonts.
These distant relatives of modern elephants had an imposing appearance, with strange, downward-curving tusks and heights of up to 16 feet at the shoulder.
Leedsichthys problematicus & Liopleurodon rossicus
The fearsome Liopleuredon, right, had a jaw nearly ten feet long. The Leedsichthys, left, was a bony fish that may have been even larger than it looked; some estimates put its maximum length at 53 feet. <strong>Correction</strong>: <em>An earlier version of this slide had the positions of the Liopleuredon and Leedsichthys reversed</em>.