Saber-Toothed Tigers

Canadian for Kids: Scientists are still discovering facts about the Saber-toothed cats that roamed the world from 33.7 million years ago to 11,000 years ago. It is one of the more recognized animals that roamed the earth. There were many subspecies of the saber-toothed cat (like the Saber-Toothed Tiger in North and South America). Over the million of years they roamed the earth, they adapted to the environment that they lived and the species that they fed upon. Saber-toothed cats were generally stronger and vigorous than today’s cats and were quite bear-like in build compared to your cat. They were excellent hunters and hunted animals such as sloths, mammoths, and other large prey.
Scientists are uncovering some fascinating facts about the cat and how it attacked its prey. The Saber-Toothed Cats were known for its famous giant canine teeth, and it was also recognized for its large forelimbs. It is believed that they used these large forelimbs to pin their prey before delivering the fatal blow.
The famous “Saber-Toothed Tiger” lived in North and South America until about 10,000 years ago and fed on such animals as bison and mammoths. One of the amazing things is that the saber tooth teeth were very different than your cats. They were more easily broken due to the size, shape and design of their teeth because they were oval in shape, not round like your cats.
Julie Meachen-Samuels, a paleontologist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC said that “Cats living today have canines that are round in cross-section, so they can withstand forces in all directions. If the prey is struggling it doesn’t matter which way it’s pulling — their teeth are unlikely to break,” she explained. They were also designed differently than your cats teeth. She also noted that “Many scientists infer that saber-toothed cats killed prey differently from other cats because their teeth were thinner side-to-side.”
Even though they had teeth that were easily broken, they had other strengths, their powerful forearms. While the leg bones were similar to what they would expect for an animal that size, their forearms were considerably larger than what they would expect.
Scientists had measured the length, width and strength of the forearms and noted that they are much stronger than today’s cats.
“When I looked at the arm bones, Smilodon fatalis was way out in left field,” said Meachen-Samuels. “As muscles pull on bones, bones respond by getting stronger. Because saber-toothed cats had thicker arm bones we think they must have used their forelimbs more than other cats did. The findings give us new information about how strong their forelimbs were and how they were built,” she added. “This is the first study to look inside saber tooth arm bones to see exactly how much stress and strain they could handle.”
If you are playing with your cat, you can see how the Saber-Toothed Tiger actually used its large forearms to pin its prey. Take a piece of string and maybe a toy and pull it along the floor and watch your cat chase it. It will use its forearms to try to pin the string or toy to capture it, just like the Saber-Toothed Tiger.