SHELBY TOWNSHIP — While fishing in a lake near 24 Mile and Dequindre roads earlier this summer, Eric Stamatin, 11, and his cousin Andrew Gainariu, 11, brought home a catch unlike anything they expected to reel in.
After the duo decided to take a break from angling, they started moving rocks to build a dam and came across what a geologist from the Cranbrook Science Institute in Bloomfield Hills identified as a vertebra from an ancient mastodon.
“We thought it was a rock, but when I saw the hole in the middle, I thought it might be a bone,” Stamatin, of Shelby Township, said. “I showed it to my dad, and he said it looked like an axis bone, which is in the neck.”
The youths’ parents said that, while the history behind the find made it relatively unique, seeing the cousins come home with something covered in dirt from the lake or outdoors was nothing out of the ordinary.
“He’s always coming home with something — there’s a box of rocks at home,” Andrew’s mother, Nicole Gainariu, of Troy, said. “They always spend all weekend together, and they go out and have fun and have adventures.”
Along with a love of the outdoors, both boys said they have an affinity for natural science.
“When I was a little kid, I used to watch Discovery (Channel),” said Andrew, who attends school at Guardian Angels in Clawson.
Along with finding the historic keepsake, the duo also got a taste of fame as they presented the fossil during a show-and-tell press conference that was broadcast throughout Roberts Elementary in Shelby Township Dec. 14. Multiple TV camera crews and reporters from several newspapers attended.
During the press conference, the boys enjoyed answering questions from reporters and Eric’s classmates for more than 30 minutes.
“He’s a very social kid, and he’s never had problems talking with people,” Nicole Gainariu said of her son’s poise in front of the cameras. “Maybe he will be a politician.”
And whether their futures are in politics or paleontology, both boys’ parents hope the experience discovering a fossil motivates the youths to believe in and reach for their dreams.
“Maybe it will inspire them to study more and really find something that they love doing,” Eric’s mother, Cristina Stamatin, said. “Maybe it gives them a moment of fame and inspires them to find what they want to do.”