Most of the time, dogs dig to hide a treat or toy from a rival, or perhaps to reveal some delightfully pungent animal poop or decaying remains that can be used as canine cologne.
But Scout, a Labrador retriever from Whidbey Island, Washington, apparently has loftier ambitions. In September, the now 8-month-old puppy dug up a 13,000-year-old fossilized woolly mammoth tooth.
As reported by Seattle-based outlet Komo News, owner Kirk Lacewell noticed Scout was carrying something around in his mouth after he dug a shallow hole in the fenced backyard. Believing it to be a rock, or perhaps some petrified wood, Lacewell let his new pet enjoy the object without giving it much thought.
But when the dog seemed just as enamored with the item the following day, Lacewell decided to take a closer look. After washing and drying Scout’s find, he realized that it looked a lot like a bone.
Uncertain, he sent pictures to palaeontologists at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum. The scientists quickly agreed on the object’s origin and estimated its age.
“[Teeth] typically preserve more than other parts of the mammoth,” Andrea Godinez, marketing director of the Burke Museum told Komo News. Judging by the number of fossils discovered, Whidbey Island was home to a large population of woolly mammoths before the species went extinct at the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 11,000 years ago. About 5,000 years prior to that, Earth’s warming temperatures caused the Puget Lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet to recede northward, which carved the island into its current shape.
Because Mammoth fossils are not rare, the museum did not try to acquire it for study or public display. Yet even if the fossil isn’t extraordinary, one has to admit that the circumstances of its excavation are.
“I can’t remember a time when a dog helped uncover a fossil,” Godinez said. They seem to be better at finding treasure.
Lacewell has put the tooth on his living room mantle, a place of honor that is conveniently out of the dog’s reach