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Interesting facts about Smilodon

Smilodon Facts

Scientists have discovered smilodon was one of more than 100 species of sabre-toothed cats. It became extinct about 14,000 years ago. It was a heavy, muscular animal and a predator that was believed to be able to grapple to the ground before ripping out the throats of its victims. Despite their size, Smilodon’s teeth were not very strong and would break if they hit bone. Smilodon hunted a wide variety of prey, including bears, horses, and young mammoths. Fossils have been found together, suggesting that they lived like a lion and hunted in packs.

Smilodons were ancient big cats popularly known as “saber-toothed cats”. It is a genus under which three extinct species have been recognized: S. populator, S. fatalis and S. gracilis. The first evidence of their existence came from fossils found in the second quarter of the 19th century.

In 1830, the Danish palaeontologist, zoologist and archaeologist Peter Wilhelm Lund discovered and described the fossil of Smilodon populator, a species of the Smilodon, in Brazil. In 1842, he named the genus ‘Smilodon’.

Smilodon Knight.jpg
(Image: Wikimedia)

Since the discovery of the first species, other members of the genus have also been documented. In 1869, a team led by American palaeontologist Joseph Leidy unearthed the fossil Smilodon details in North America. Almost a decade later, in 1880, the remains of a third species, Smilodon gracilis, were discovered by American palaeontologist and comparative anatomist Edward Drinker Cope. These prehistoric animals were distributed from Eurasia to North and South America. Of the three, S. fatalis is probably the best-known species in North America. This creature was found in abundance in the Rancho La Brea tar pits of California.

Since their discoveries, scientists have been able to place the entire genus of the modern fauna through phylogenetic analyses. However, more than a handful of information about these animals could be recovered from their remains. Like all cats (big and small), Smilodon also belonged to the Felidae family, which was under the order Carnivora.

Early DNA analysis placed these creatures within the Felinae subfamily, standard with today’s cats. More recently, however, a more comprehensive analysis of this topic has shown that Smilodons were not a close cousin of the felids (Felinae). They are members of a subfamily Macarodontinae, which has become an extant type of Phelinae.

Compared to its phylogeny, the evolutionary history of Smilodon was easier to study. The oldest fossil discovered was S. gracilis which evolved during the Pleistocene epoch about 2.5 million years ago. Seconds. fatalis, evolved about 1.6 million years ago, while the last, S. settlers, evolved about 1 million years ago.

The size of the Smilodons was enormous, with the Smilodon population being the largest of the three species, weighing in at over 800 pounds. Smilodon fatalis was about the same size as a modern lion but slightly heavier. They were around 430-600 pounds. Smilodon gracilis was the smallest of the three, believed to have been jaguar-sized, weighing around 360 pounds.

The most distinctive features of Smilodons are their large pair of upper canine teeth which were about 28 cm long in S. poplar, giving them the colloquial name “saber-toothed cats”. Of the two types of cats, viz. The short wide canine ‘Schmidter’s tooth’, and the slender tall canine ‘dark tooth’, Smilodon belongs to the latter type.

Smilodons could open their jaws very wide at approximately 100° with the rest of their skull/head. Fur features, such as a lion’s mane or a tiger’s stripes, are too unusual to predict from fossil remains; However, they probably had plain coloured or dappled coats.

There is little evidence and much debate among researchers about the exact behaviour of this genus and its related species. However, like all cats, Smilodon was also carnivorous, the most evident being the pair of large and distinctive canine teeth.

Scientists also think they were ambush predators because they had thick, muscular forelimbs. It is believed that they would suddenly attack and sneak up on their prey, surprising and quickly killing them. However, other groups of scientists debate this behaviour. Since these big cats physically resembled hyenas, they believe the animals could pursue prey over considerable distances, at least for some time.

Interesting Data

  • The name ‘Smilodon’ has nothing to do with ‘toothy smile’ but comes from the Ancient Greek words smile, meaning ‘scalpel’ or ‘two-edged knife’, and odontis, meaning ‘tooth’.
  • It is still unclear how these animals faced extinction. Various theories of extinction believe in various causes, including climate change, possible competition with humans (however, there is no evidence to support this), or the extinction of the large animals on which it was fed.
  • Although Smilodon was very similar to modern-day tigers, they were not close relatives.
  • Smilodon’s main enemies were hyenas and dire wolves, who shared a common habitat with them.
  • Smilodon was the largest of all Machirodontine cats (an extinct subfamily of carnivorous mammals of the “true cat” family).


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