Smilodon (Smie-lo-don), Knife Tooth, lived in the Pleistocene of North and South America. This Saber toothed cat is not directly related to modern lions, but is the last member of machairodonts, a sister group to felines. They became extinct when the Ice age Mega fauna died out at the end of the ice age (Lange, 2002).
Genera and Species
Classification: Carnivora, Felidae, Machairodontinae
Species: S. populator, S. fatalis, S. gracilis
Synonyms: S. californicus
Smilodon had large Saber Teeth that appear to be devastating weapons but they were actually very fragile for canine teeth. The relatively weaker jaw muscles allowed it to open its mouth wider to the 120 degrees needed to use its teeth. It had longer front legs that were very strong. The tail was short. Size would have varied, with S. gracilis being the smallest and S. fatalis the largest, standing 6 feet at the shoulder.
LENGTH: 2.6 m (8 ft.).
WEIGHT: 500 lbs.
Smilodon was an active predator that specialized in the hunting of large herbivores. It was not fast, so it was most likely an ambush predator. It could have been a pack hunter in a similar fashion to modern day lions. There are signs of healed injuries to bones and the areas of muscle attachment that are so serious they would take weeks and even months to heal. This would have been possible if they belonged to a social group that would care for them (Prothero, 2006).
History of Discovery
Discovery, Lund - 1842 and known from many complete skeletons. The Rancho La Brea tar pits have produced good examples.
Found in North and South America. In North America, it shared the top predator role with Dire Wolves, the American Lion and Short-faced bear.
- Smilodon. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2014, from http://www.prehistoric-wildlife.com/species/s/smilodon.html.
- Lange, I. M. (2002). Ice Age mammals of North America: a guide to the big, the hairy, and the bizarre. Missoula, Mont.: Mountain Press Pub. Co..
- 3Prothero, D. R. (2006). After the dinosaurs: the age of mammals. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.