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An Analysis of the Prehistoric Creature Fred the Mastodon

By: Jingwei Zhao

Fred the Mastodon lived 13,000 years ago. He likely spent most of his adolescence with his family but was later kicked out. Throughout the rest of his life, Fred would mainly roam around in what is now modern Indiana. When it was summer, Fred would fight other male mastodons to compete for a mate. These fights often ended in bloodshed with one of the fighters dying. Fred was killed by a tusk to the head and into the skull.

Josh Miller is a paleontologist who studies at the University of Cincinnati. His studies show that Fred is a distant relative to the elephant. What makes Fred so special is that his bones were well preserved, unlike others that are broken and rusty. According to Miller, "He (Fred) has beautifully preserved bones, beautifully preserved tusks, and that really provides a beautiful opportunity to do this kind of work.”

Like tree trunks, it is possible to study a mastodon through its rings. The nutrients that build up inside the tusk give clues to how much growth Fred experienced over time. At one point, he became a nuisance to the family and was too hairy and useless for them to stand, so his mother and aunt kicked him out of their herd. He searched for love until he died inside the swamp which preserved his dead body.

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