It was on the morning of Sept. 2 that Villanueva decided to go fishing.
Not long after reaching the river banks, he looked down at the edge of the water, and something unusual caught his eye.
A collector of petrified rocks, Villanueva always keeps a sharp lookout for rocks he can add to his collection.
He reached down and pulled a heavy rock-like object out of the water and put it in the bag along with the rest of the rocks he had collected that morning.
When he got home, Villanueva examined the object and thought at first that it might be a turtle fossil. But with the help of his brother and some online research, he now believes what he found was a fossilized mastodon tooth, an object from an era deep in the past of Karnes County – befofre it was even called Karnes County.
Weighing several pounds, the tooth has a polished appearance and appears attached to its root with several spiky white points. The points appear to be the sharp ends of the tooth presumably used to crush grass, and bushes, the main things that scientists believe mastodons ate on a regular basis.
According to information at wikipedia.com, the American mastodon lived from about 3.7 million years ago until it became extinct in North America about 12,700 years ago.
Mastodon fossils have been found in locations across the United States including Alaska, New England and California.
The American mastodon resembled a woolly mammoth in appearance, with a thick coat of shaggy hair. Scientists believe it had tusks that sometimes exceeded five meters in length; they curved upwards, but less dramatically than those of the woolly mammoth.
Villanueva also found some fossilized bones in the same area where he found the tooth.
The value of the tooth remains unknown to Villanueva, although he has already been offered $500 for the tooth from one person. He is considering selling or perhaps donating the tooth to a college or museum.
One thing Villanueva is curious to know the exact age of the tooth, and hopes to one day find out perhaps with the help of an expert who studies such fossils.
For now, though, he is happy to keep it as a part of his own collection – perhaps the most interesting object among his group of petrified rocks.