An environment worker checking a riverbed discovered floods had uncovered a rare 70,000-year-old mammoth TOOTH.
Simon McHugh was inspecting erosion damage following last year’s floods when he spotted the massive molar.
The hefty 2.2kg (5lbs) tooth, measuring 20cm in length, 7cm wide and 13cm deep, had been exposed by floods.
Simon plucked the tooth from the mud and it was later identified as a mammoth tooth between 20,000 – 70,000 years old.
Experts say the mammoth – which had an average life expectancy of up to 80 years – was approximately 20 when it died.
The tooth had “petrified” and absorbed minerals after lying buried in the ground for thousands of years – making it heavier than when the mammoth was alive.
Simon found the tooth along the River Otter outside Newton Poppleford in Devon – the first found in the county for 200 years.
Experts at London’s Natural History Museum have confirmed the unusual find as a mammoth tooth dating from the last Ice Age.
Simon, a biodiversity technical officer, said he spotted the tooth while out assessing bank erosion with some Environment Agency officials.
He said: “I saw what looked like a big tooth lying in about a foot of water on the riverbed gravels.
“It was only after I retrieved it and examined the tooth more closely that I realised I’d found something special.
“The tooth has very good definition which would have been lost if it had been transported far down the river.”
The owner of the land where it was found has agreed to donate the tooth to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.
It has 11 other mammoth teeth in its collection but only two are from English sites – the others are from North America and other parts of Europe.
But before it can go on display the molar must undergo special preservation because if it dries out there is a danger it could fall apart.
The section of riverbank where Simon made his once-in-a-lifetime discovery was heavily eroded during last year’s floods.
It is believed the tooth was washed into the river as previously buried areas of gravelbed were exposed.
Mammoths died out around 3,000 years ago and their extinction is thought to have been caused by climate change and hunting.
The River Otter mammoth tooth will probably go on display at Exeter Museum as part of a special exhibition.