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Big Catch: Fisherman Scoops Up Mammoth Tooth

Mike Anderson has fished some strange things out of the waters near Rye, N.H. But his latest catch may land in a museum.

The haul? The tooth of a long-extinct mammoth.

The shrimp and scallop fisherman says he has pulled up "whale vertebrae, porpoise skulls, an old fuel tank that he thought was a treasure chest, and even the body of a drowned kayaker," SeacoastOnline.com reports.

But last week, while dredging for scallops, he and his crew noticed something odd among the rocks and scallops: a 6-inch (15-centimeter)-long, triangular, grooved object that he identified immediately as a tooth.

"We knew right off it was a tooth because it has a nerve [opening] at the top," Anderson told Seacoast Online.

"This is indeed a mammoth tooth, and quite possibly from a woolly mammoth," Daniel Fisher, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan, told the Huffington Post. "The angle at which the photos provided were taken makes it a little tricky to identify which tooth, but it could be a lower first molar."

Woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) were alive for roughly 250,000 years and ranged from Europe to Asia to North America. The enormous beasts, which could weigh 9 tons (8 metric tons) or more, went extinct about 10,000 years ago.

Mammoth teeth are common in New England waters, Fisher added. "During much of the part of the [Pleistocene] ice age when these animals were moderately common in this part of North America, sea levels were lower than they are now, and much of what is now the continental shelf was dry land and home to mammoths," he told the Huffington Post.

Contact Marc Lallanilla at mlallanilla@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcLallanilla. Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Marc Lallanilla
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at About.com and a producer with ABCNews.com. His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and TheWeek.com. Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.