Predators, Dreams, and Extinctions — chasing sabretooths

From one of my favorite blogs, prehistoric cats and beautiful illustrations from paleo-artist Mauricio Antón. I love his work and this piece in particular has an important and timely message!

“Now as you look to the assembly of magnificent carnivorans from the Miocene of Batallones, just imagine your grandchildren facing a similar illustration, but showing the lion, leopard, wolf, lynx, polar bear… by then completely extinct in the wild. Imagine the desolation of knowing that there is nowhere in the world where lions or tigers reign as sabertooths reigned in the distant past. Today those places still exist but if one day they disappear it will be, at least in part, because of our own idleness. Just by having a clear opinion and making it heard, or through our vote, we can make a difference. But trying to convince ourselves that extinction doesn´t matter is perhaps the ultimate sign of cowardice, and thinking that future generations will not be aware enough of their loss to reproach us is the farthest thing from a consolation. We need the fossils in the museums and the living predators out in the wild. Each thing in its place!”

I remember well the first excavations at the fossil site of Batallones-1, over a quarter of a century ago. After some teeth of the saber-tooth cat Promegantereon appeared at the site it seemed likely that, for the first time ever, a complete skull of the mysterious animal could be found. Back then, that possibility excited […]

via Predators, Dreams, and Extinctions — chasing sabretooths

Prehistoric Cats – Smilodon

There are many cool prehistoric big cats, but if I had to narrow it down I would say  Smilodon aka Saber-tooth Cat has to top my list, sometimes called Saber-Tooth Tiger even though they aren’t related to modern Tigers, they are also known as the deadliest cat of all time and three species lived in North and South America:

  • Smallest, Smilodon gracilis, was about the size of a modern-day Jaguar
  • Smilodon fatalis was as big as a lion
  • Smilodon populator which reached up to 500 kgs (1102lbs) when fully grown

Prehistoric, extinct Big cats, Sabre-tooth tiger, sabre-tooth catSmilodon was the largest of the saber-toothed cats and among the largest mammalian carnivores to ever prowl the Earth.”

What did this big cat like? They liked Trees, open spaces, slow-moving prey and the art of ambush! They are thought to have lived very much like African Lions in prides even taking care of injured group members and perhaps using cooperative hunting methods.

My, what big teeth you have! 8.5 inches to be exact. Sadly bigger may not have been better as the large but brittle teeth were prone to breaking and this meant they couldn’t bite into bone. This made Smilodon a wasteful eater as they had to stick to the “soft” parts.

Prehistoric cat, Sabre-Tooth Cat, Tiger, ExtinctThe most famous Smilodon fossils are the ones preserved in California at the La Brea tar-pits which was a magnet back in the day attracting hapless prey who got stuck, which in turn attracted the big cats for an easy meal, who also got stuck. The large number of Smilodon fossils at the tar-pit made it easier for scientist to figure out a lot about their lives.

Smilodon was very successful at being a top predator so it is not really known why it went extinct, but the arrival of humans about 13,000 years ago and with that “the sudden extinction of large herbivores” (prey) could account for its demise.

What Smilodon lacked in agility it made up for with strength and power going so far as to take out its competition in South America by driving its less adaptable competitors to extinction. If this cat was playing prehistoric survivor it would have got my vote for the fan favorite.