MASTODON (Gr. piaffrfo, breast, 6Soi>s, tooth), a name given by Cuvier to the Pliocene and Miocene forerunners of the elephants, on account of the nipple-like prominences on the molar teeth of some of the species (fig. 2), which are of a much simpler type than those of true elephants. Mastodons, like elephants, always have a pair of upper tusks, while the earlier ones likewise have a short pair in the lower jaw, which is prilonged into a snout-like symphysis for their support. These long-chinned mastodons are now regarded as forming a genus by themselves (Tetrabelodon), well-known examples of this group being Tetrabelodon angustidens from the Miocene and T. longirostris (fig. i C.) from the Lower Pliocene of the Continent. In the former the upper tusks are bent down so as to cross the tips of the short and chisel-like lower pair. These long-chinned mastodons must have had an extremely elongated muzzle, formed by the upper lip and nose above and the lower lip below, with which they were able to reach the ground, the neck being probably rather longer than in elephants. On the other hand, in the short-chinned mastodons, as represented by the Pleistocene North American Mastodon americanus and the Pliocene European M. turicensis (fig. i), the chin had shrunk to the dimensions characteristic of elephants, with the loss of the lower incisors (or with temporary retention of rudimentary ones), while at the same time a true elephant-like trunk must have been developed by the shortening of the lower lip and the prolongation of the combined upper lip and nose.
The upper tusks of the early mastodons differ from those of elephants in retaining longitudinal bands of enamel. The molar teeth species the summits of the ridges are divided into conical cusps, and may have accessory cusps clustering around them (as in M. arvernensis, fig. 2). When the summits of these are worn by mastication their surfaces present circles of dentine surrounded by a border of enamel, and as attrition proceeds different patterns are produced by the union of the bases of the cusps, a trefoil form being characteristic of some species.
Certain of the molar teeth of the middle of the series in both elephants and mastodons have the same number of principal ridges; those in front having fewer, and those behind a greater number.' These teeth are distinguished as " intermediate " molars. In elephants there are only two, the last milk-molar and the first true molar (or the third and fourth of the whole series), which are alike in the number of ridges; whereas in mastodons there are three such teeth, the last milk-molar and the first and second molars (or the third, fourth and fifth of the whole series). In elephants the number of ridges on the intermediate molars always exceeds five, but in mastodons it is nearly always three or four, and the tooth in front has usually one fewer and that behind one more, so that the ridgeformula (i.e. a formula expressing the number of ridges on each of the six molar teeth) of most mastodons can be reduced either to 1,2, 3, 3, 3, ,3.; Th FIG. i. Mastcdon turicensis (Pliocene). A, B, Skull and Lower Jaw of Mastodon americanus, C, Lower Jaw of Tetrabelodon longirostris.
are six in number on each side, increasing in size from before backwards, and, as in the elephants, with a horizontal succession, the anterior teeth being lost before the full development of the posterior ones, which gradually move forward, taking the place of those that are destroyed by wear. This process is, however, less fully developed than in elephants, and as many as three teeth may be in place in each jaw at one time. There is, moreover, in many species a vertical succession, affecting either the third, or the third and second, or (in one American species, Tetrabelodon prodnctus) the first, second and third of the six molar teeth. These three are therefore reckoned as milk-molars, and their successors as premolars, while the last three correspond to the true molars of other mammals. The mode of succession of the teeth in the mastodons exhibits so many stages of the process by which the dentition of elephants has been derived from that of more ordinary mammals. It also shows that the anterior molars of elephants do not correspond to the premolars of other ungulates, but to the milk-molars, the early loss of which in consequence of the peculiar process of horizontal forward-moving (From Owen.) FIG. 2. Upper Molar of Mastodon arvernensis, viewed from below.
succession does not require their replacement by premolars. Specialized! species like Mastodon americanus have completely lost the rudimentary premolars.
Mastodons have fewer ridges on their molar teeth than elephants ; the ridges are also less elevated, wider apart, with a thicker enamel covering, and scarcely any cement filling the space between them. Sometimes (as in M. americanus) the ridges are simple transverse wedge-shaped elevations, with straight or concave edges. In other 4, or 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5. Threeridged and four-ridged types occur both in Mastodon and Tetrabelodon. (R. L.*)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)