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Meet Sugar, the Mastodon Americanus above, formerly known as the Sugar Loaf Mastodon after being dug up in 1972 in the black earth fields near the Warwick-Chester border. Sugar can be seen in the lobby of the Bio Tech building on the Orange County Community College campus in Middletown NY (845) 344-6222. The mastodon was donated to the people of Orange County by the New York State Archaeological Association.

sugar the mastodon

The skeleton has been carbon dated and reveals that the Sugar lived around 7900 BC-- give or take 225 years. The carbon dating tells us that Sugar lived in Orange County after the warming trend of the Holocene Epoch which began 11,000 years ago and was not killed by an "ice age" as many newspaper sources have previously reported about the beast. Despite the feminine name, Sugar was a 20 foot long male and measures 9 feet tall at the shoulder bone. The average length of mature mastodons was around 15 ft. Sugar's extra length is comprised of his unusually long tusks.

Mastodons belong to an ancient family called the Mammutidae, which originated some 30 to 35 million years ago in North Africa. They are related to modern elephants as they have longs tusks and a flexible trunk. These creatures were more stocky than elephants, though, with thicker limb bones and they were covered by a coat of long hair. Mastodons lived in a variety of habitats which could provide large amounts of trees and shrubs for their diet. They were found everywhere on the planet except for Australia. Recent discoveries about their diet illustrate that mastodons also liked to eat grass. This was discovered after examination of the calculus (the hard plaque) adhered to the teeth of a mastodon which showed the existence of many grass cells.mastodon

Little is known of the social behavior of mastodons. Maturation of the young took approximately ten years, so some feel it is safe to assume that there might have been a lot of social involvement by the older herd. Since all finds have been of solitary animals it is tempting to say that adults did not travel in herds, but one must take into account the likelihood that two animals would expire in the same spot. There is some evidence that these animals may have embarked on seasonal migrations in search of food.

There are over two hundred fossil sites of mastodons in North America. Mostly these comprise teeth, bones and tusks, but some are made up entirely of preserved skeletons. In 1977, a completely unique find of a complete mastodon was made in Washington State in the USA. A human-fashioned spear point was found embedded in the ribs. Further forensics revealed that the bone had grown around the spear point, leading researchers to conclude that the mastodon survived the spear attack and lived on to a ripe old age.