Fossil Friday 3/18/16: A gomphothere


UF 294322, a left lower third molar (m3) of the gomphothere Gomphotherium sp. Top: occlusal view, bottom: labial view. Figure modified from MacFadden et al. 2015.

On this week’s Fossil Friday I would like to show you a gomphothere tooth from Lake Alajuela (Alajuela Formation). Gomphotheres are extinct members of the mammalian Order Proboscidea (modern-day elephants are also members of this order). This specimen was found by Dr. John Turner in 1959 when he was a high school student. He discovered the tooth when he was at the Madden Boy Scout Camp (Lake Alajuela was formerly known as Lake Madden. The age of the specimen is difficult to discern, but it is likely mid- to late Miocene/early Pliocene in age. This specimen is the first known evidence of a pre-Pleistocene proboscidean in Panama.

To learn more about this specimen, read the paper detailing its discovery and taxonomy here.


MacFadden, B. J., Morgan, G. S., Jones, D. S., Rincon, A. F. 2015. Gomphothere proboscidean (Gomphotherium) from the late Neogene of Panama. Journal of Paleontology, 89(2): 360-365. doi: 10.1017/jpa.2014.31.


Reconstructing a Gomphothere (Mastodont relative)


Photo by Ariel Guggino

This past week I was assign to reconstruct a gomphothere’s tusk and rib bone. I am actually the fourth person that has worked on this project, and most likely the last before it goes in the museum’s collections.

For some of you that are still wondering what is a gomphothere, this is a relative of the mastodon and mammoth. This extinct proboscidean lived during the Miocene and Pliocene, which is about 12 – 1.6 million years ago. These mammals were globally distributed, its remains have been found in North America, East Africa, Europe, Japan and China. Continue reading