The blade-like carnassial teeth were used to cut skin to access the meat, and the reduced molars suggest that they were less adapted for crushing bones than modern cats. Despite being more powerfully built than other large cats, Smilodon had a weaker bite. Modern big cats have more pronounced zygomatic arches , while these were smaller in Smilodon , which restricted the thickness and therefore power of the temporalis muscles and thus reduced Smilodon 's bite force. Analysis of its narrow jaws indicates that it could produce a bite only a third as strong as that of a lion the bite force quotient measured for the lion is Analyses of canine bending strength the ability of the canine teeth to resist bending forces without breaking and bite forces indicate that the saber-toothed cats' teeth were stronger relative to the bite force than those of modern big cats.
The two would therefore have held distinct ecological niches. Many Smilodon specimens have been excavated from asphalt seeps that acted as natural carnivore traps.
Animals were accidentally trapped in the seeps and became bait for predators that came to scavenge, but these were then trapped themselves. The best-known of such traps are at La Brea in Los Angeles, which have produced over , Smilodon fatalis specimens  that form the largest collection in the world. The sediments of the pits there were accumulated 40, to 10, years ago, in the Late Pleistocene. The Talara Tar Seeps in Peru represent a similar scenario, and have also produced fossils of Smilodon.
The Modern Tiger
Unlike in La Brea, many of the bones were broken or show signs of weathering. This may have been because the layers were shallower, so the thrashing of trapped animals damaged the bones of previously trapped animals.
Many of the carnivores at Talara were juveniles, possibly indicating that inexperienced and less fit animals had a greater chance of being trapped. Though Lund thought accumulations of Smilodon and herbivore fossils in the Lagoa Santa Caves were due to the cats using the caves as dens, these are probably the result of animals dying on the surface, and water currents subsequently dragging their bones to the floor of the cave, but some individuals may also have died after becoming lost in the caves. Scientists debate whether Smilodon was social. One study of African predators found that social predators like lions and spotted hyenas respond more to the distress calls of prey than solitary species.
Since S. The author of that study ponders what predators would have responded if the recordings were played in India, where the otherwise solitary tigers are known to aggregate around a single carcass. In addition, they stated that weight and intelligence would not likely affect the results as lighter carnivores are far more numerous than heavy herbivores and the social and seemingly intelligent dire wolf is also found in the pits.
Another argument for sociality is based on the healed injuries in several Smilodon fossils, which would suggest that the animals needed others to provide it food. Some researchers have argued that Smilodon 's brain would have been too small for it to have been a social animal. Whether Smilodon was sexually dimorphic has implications for its reproductive behavior. Based on their conclusions that Smilodon fatalis had no sexual dimorphism, Van Valkenburgh and Sacco suggested in that, if the cats were social, they would likely have lived in monogamous pairs along with offspring with no intense competition among males for females.
If caused by intraspecific fighting, it may also indicate that they had social behavior which could lead to death, as seen in some modern felines as well as indicating that the canines could penetrate bone. Smilodon started developing its adult saber-teeth when the animal turned one-and-a-half years of age, shortly after the completion of the eruption of the cat's baby teeth.
Both baby and adult canines would be present side by side in the mouth for an month period, and the muscles used in making the powerful bite were developed at about one-and-a-half years old as well, eight months earlier than in a modern lion. They reached their full size at around 3 years of age, later than for modern species of big cat. Juvenile and adolescent Smilodon specimens are extremely rare at Rancho La Brea, where the study was performed, indicating that they remained hidden or at denning sites during hunts, and depended on parental care while their canines were developing.
A study indicates that juveniles were born with a robust build similar to the adults. Comparison of the bones of juvenile S. Felid forelimb development during ontogeny changes during growth has remained tightly constrained. The curve is similar to that for modern cats such as tigers and cougars, but shifts more towards the robust direction of the axes than is seen in modern felids. Several Smilodon fossils show signs of ankylosing spondylitis , hyperostosis and trauma;  some also had arthritis , which gave them fused vertebrae.
They also showed signs of microfractures, and the weakening and thinning of bones possibly caused by mechanical stress from the constant need to make stabbing motions with the canines. Sternum injuries are also common, probably due to collision with prey. Smilodon remains exhibit relatively more shoulder and lumbar vertebrae injuries. Smilodon lived during the Pleistocene epoch 2. Smilodon inhabited the temperate latitudes of North America, where the mosaic vegetation of woods, shrubs, and grasses in the southwest supported large herbivores such as horses, bison, antelope , deer , camels, mammoths , mastodons , and ground sloths.
Other large carnivores included dire wolves, short-faced bear Arctodus simus and the American lion. The similar sizes of S. Native metatherian predators including the saber-toothed thylacosmilids had gone extinct by the Pliocene, and were replaced by North American carnivores such as canids, bears, and large cats.
The extinction of the thylacosmilids has been attributed to competition with Smilodon , but this is probably incorrect, as they seem to have disappeared before the arrival of the large cats. The phorusrhacid "terror birds" may have dominated the large predator niche in South America until Smilodon arrived.
In this way, the South American Smilodon species was probably similar to the modern lion. Along with most of the Pleistocene megafauna, Smilodon became extinct 10, years ago in the Quaternary extinction event. Its extinction has been linked to the decline and extinction of large herbivores, which were replaced by smaller and more agile ones like deer. Hence, Smilodon could have been too specialized at hunting large prey and may have been unable to adapt. Some early writers theorized that the last saber-toothed cats, Smilodon and Homotherium , became extinct through competition with the faster and more generalized felids that replaced them.
It was even proposed that the saber-toothed predators were inferior to modern cats, as the ever-growing canines were thought to inhibit their owners from feeding properly. Yet fast felids, such as the American lion and the American cheetah , also became extinct during the Late Pleistocene. The fact that saber-teeth evolved many times in unrelated lineages also attests to the success of this feature. The latest Smilodon fatalis specimen recovered from the Rancho La Brea tar pits has been dated to 13, years ago.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is the latest accepted revision , reviewed on 25 September For the extinct genus of archosaurian reptile originally named Smilodon, see Zanclodon. An extinct genus of saber-toothed cat. Temporal range: Early Pleistocene to Early Holocene , 2.
Lund , Genus synonymy.
Species synonymy. Extinct and endangered species portal Paleontology portal. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Florida Museum of Natural History. Retrieved December The American Naturalist. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Pleistocene Mammals of North America. New York: Columbia University Press. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum. The status of Smilodontopsis Brown, and Ischyrosmilus Merriam, : a taxonomic review of two genera of sabretooth cats Felidae, Machairodontinae.
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