Huge mammoth tooth found next to a broken flowerpot in Devon

Huge mammoth tooth weighing 12lbs is found next to a broken flowerpot in Devon by a retired couple – and it could be one of the biggest ever found

  • Stephen and Stella Huyshe-Shires found the item last November in their garden 
  • They were moving into a cottage in Devon and found it near a broken flower pot 
  • Unaware of its true history until they attended a museum event on mammoths 
  • Saw several other mammoth teeth on display and realised what they actually had

An enormous mammoth tooth has been accidentally discovered next to a broken plant pot in a Devon garden. 

The monster molar weighs 12lbs (5.5kg) and was found by the new owners of a cottage in the English countryside. 

Stephen and Stella Huyshe-Shires found the item last November and were unaware of its true origin.

They only discovered their quirky find was actually a fossilised tooth when they spotted another mammoth relic on display at Sidmouth museum.

Experts say it is much larger than most mammoth teeth and could be one of the biggest ever discovered.  

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 The monster molar weighs 12lbs (5.5kg) and was found by the new owners of a cottage in the English countryside. It is undergoing further tests and believed to be the largest and rearmost tooth of an adult mammoth 

Mrs Huyshe-Shires said the tooth looked like a broken ornament on first inspection.

Her husband added: ‘One of the slides at the lecture was of a mammoth tooth and we said ‘we have one of those’.

‘What we didn’t have was a sense of scale from that slide we had no idea of how big it was.

‘We came down to the museum and said ‘we think we have got one’ and they showed us some of their collection and we thought ‘these are quite small maybe it isn’t a mammoth tooth’.

‘It’s quite unbelievable really. You wait 10,000 years for a mammoth tooth and then two come along together.’

The new discovery weighs more than double the largest teeth in the museum’s collection which tip the scales at 5.5lbs (2.5kg).

The origin of how the tooth was discovered before it ended up the the garden remains a mystery and Sidmouth Museum is trying to track down when and where it was found.

Stephen and Stella Huyshe-Shires (pictured) found the 12lbs (5.5kg) tooth in November and were unaware of its true origin. They only discovered their quirky find was actually a fossilised tooth when they spotted another mammoth tooth on display at Sidmouth museum

Mrs Huyshe-Shires said the tooth looked like a broken ornament on first inspection. The ormous mammoth tooth has been accidentally discovered next to a broken plant pot in a Devon garden

Colin Boynton, assistant geologist curator from Sidmouth Museum, said another tooth was located in Sidbury during the 1970s but this was the biggest by far in the collection.

He said: ‘Three or four teeth have been found near the beaches or trawled up by fishermen.

‘Mammoths go through six sets of teeth, so five changes during their lifetime and as they grind down, the new one is growing and pushing the other one out until it drops out.

‘Each tooth is larger than the previous one, so this has to be the last one due to the weight.’

Ann Tanner, from the museum, hoped anyone who lived or carried out work at the property could help shed light on when it was discovered to begin to build a picture of mammoths’ activities in the Sid Valley.

She added: ‘This is so big, the mammoth’s head must have been absolutely massive.

‘Someone must know something about it.’

Mr Huish-Shires added that one theory was that the tooth had been dug up from the garden when a gas tank had been installed by a previous owner.

He said: ‘The tooth had always been in the garden according to the person we bought the house from.

‘It’s possible it was dug up in the garden and left there. There are examples of local mammoth teeth in the museum so they did live here.

‘It’s a super find and the most fitting place for it was in the local museum.’

COULD WE RESURRECT MAMMOTHS?

Male woolly mammoths were around 12 feet (3.5m) tall, while the females were slightly smaller.

They had curved tusks up to 16 feet (5m) long and their underbellies boasted a coat of shaggy hair up to 3 feet (1m) long.

Tiny ears and short tails prevented vital body heat being lost.

Their trunks had ‘two fingers’ at the end to help them pluck grass, twigs and other vegetation.

They get their name from the Russian ‘mammut’, or earth mole, as it was believed the animals lived underground and died on contact with light – explaining why they were always found dead and half-buried.

Their bones were once believed to have belonged to extinct races of giants.

Woolly mammoths and modern-day elephants are closely related, sharing 99.4 per cent of their genes.

The two species took separate evolutionary paths six million years ago, at about the same time humans and chimpanzees went their own way.

Woolly mammoths co-existed with early humans, who hunted them for food and used their bones and tusks for making weapons and art. 

The most widely used technique, known as CRISPR/Cas9, allows scientists to create a hybrid animal from the preserved fossils of woolly mammoths and merging it with cells from a living elephant. The two species share 99.4 per cent of their DNA

‘De-extincting’ the mammoth has become a realistic prospect because of revolutionary gene editing techniques that allow the precise selection and insertion of DNA from specimens frozen over millennia in Siberian ice. 

The most widely used technique, known as CRISPR/Cas9, has transformed genetic engineering since it was first demonstrated in 2012.

The system allows the ‘cut and paste’ manipulation of strands of DNA with a precision not seen before.

Using this technique, scientists could cut and paste preserved mammoth DNA into Asian elephants to create and elephant-mammoth hybrid. 

Mammoths roamed the icy tundra of Europe and North America for 140,000 years, disappearing at the end of the Pleistocene period, 10,000 years ago.

They are one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science because their remains are often not fossilised but frozen and preserved.

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