fossils

Saber-toothed cat fangs: the fast and the furious

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Nick
Garland

Founder and Editor
Paleontologists studying Smilodon fatalis, or the saber-toothed cat, have discovered that its dagger-like teeth grew at twice the rate of living big cats.

Surrounded by the busy streets of Los Angeles, the grounds of the Page Museum are the last place you’d expect to find the remains of thousands of mammoths, mastodons and huge cats. But it is here at the La Brea Tar Pits that natural asphalt seeps have entombed many animals including the well-known saber-toothed cat.


Z. Jack Tseng of the American Museum of Natural History and his team used x-ray imaging and isotopic analysis on Smilodon specimens from La Brea. They discovered that the cat’s huge canines grew at twice the rate of lions. Smilodon also had baby saber teeth until it was just over 1 year old. When it shed its teeth, the new serrated 7-inch-long incisors were already erupting and grew to full length by about age 3. Its permanent teeth grew at the rate of 6mm per month.


Smilodon was a highly specialized carnivore that lived in North and South America. Its body was more robust than any living cat and its forelimbs were very well-developed. Along with its huge canines it could also open its mouth to 120 degrees, twice the range of living lions. These features combined to make Smilodon a formidable predator.


It used its tooth daggers to pierce major blood vessels in the neck of its prey. Because Smilodon fed mostly on large herbivores like bison and camels, scientists believe their extinction coincided with the disappearance of large herbivores 10,000 years ago, around the end of the the last ice age.

Image Credit: Velizar Simeonovski

5c3e0c5dff4b84c2d89b8da7be5adf3e

Nick
Garland

Founder and Editor


http://sulc.us/b7nud
http://www.eartharchives.org/articles/saber-toothed-cat-fangs-the-fast-and-the-furious/