Showing posts with label Smilodon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smilodon. Show all posts

Thylacosmilus and curious history.

When there are two animals that are very similar in weight, size, physical characteristics and occupying the same ecological niche but living in different places and have a different origin, we call this phenomenon convergent evolution. An example would be that we can illustrate the flight of pterodactyls and bats, both fly in a similar way but come from families, genera and different orders.

Well, now let's focus on the case of Thylacosmilus ... if we saw in reality, across the road in front of our house, we might seem an early saber-toothed, a prehistoric Smilodon... But although its appearance was similar, their underclass, order, family, are different Sabertooth Tiger. The Thylacosmilus had nothing to do with the Smilodon, was actually a marsupial and even looked like Sabretooth, was evolutionarily closer to that of a kangaroo Sabretooth we know.

This prehistoric animal appeared in South America about 7 million years ago, when it was an island that was separate from North America. It was stocky, though not enough the Smilodon, as large as the current Cougars and had fangs shaped knives about 15 cm, but unlike the Smilodon, Thylacosmilus fangs did not stop growing. In addition, the fangs are embedded in a cavity having the jaw bone and giving it a very peculiar appearance to its skull. In fact, its name means "pouch saber", referring to this feature.
Possibly be true that were the apex predator in South America, but this lasted until which lasted insulation island continent. This occurred in the late Pliocene and Central America new species were introduced from the north, including a saber-toothed cat but also bigger, more corpulent and willing to put at the top of the food chain. The Thylacosmilus rival, the known Smilodon, had arrived and soon took the place of the predator.

Saber-toothed tiger or Smilodon

We talked of many prehistoric animals in this blog, since Anomalocaris of more than 500 million years, to the bird Moa, who died just over 500 years. Yes it is true that we speak of Smilodon, when we saw the American Cave Lion. But I thought that it was time to talk only to Smilodon, the saber-toothed tiger authentic.

Within the genus Smilodon, which means "saber tooth" we find three species: the Smilodon gracilis ("Smilodon thin"), Smilodon fatalis and the close cousin and we like the Smilodon populator.

From now on, when we speak of the saber-toothed tiger, we refer to Smilodon populator.

The sabertooth  was arguably the most specialized of all feline. Its body was robust, very, very robust. To get an idea of how strong it was, a male Bengal tiger now average just over 720 lb (320 kg). A Sabertooth, the same size as the tiger can weigh up to 900 lb (400 kg). The 160 lb (80 kg) of difference, are practically muscle. It would be like a tiger that had taken steroids.
But it is so strong not due to a whim of nature or to devote himself to do pushups every day, no. The sabertooth musculature, is related to their prey, nature is wise.

These two features together (teeth and muscles), made ​​of Smilodon a predator of big beasts. Giant sloths, horses, bison and even prehistoric mammoths fell into your diet. The way they hunted the megafauna in South America was by ambuscade *. Surprised their prey and reached for one of its sides. It hitched with their long claws and a hook and tugged them until toppled. When for example the mammoth was shot down, penetrating its teeth in the throat. Then the neck stretched and tore, ripping and neck veins and trachea.

Even being a prehistoric predator able to hunt large animals, Sabretooth had to deal with other predators that, individually or in groups, could snatch the prey ... Bears like Bulldog, or the giant wolf.

But competition was not the reason for their disappearance. The reason was specialization. Was not able to run long distance, as the climate of Earth was warming up (from the peak of the last ice age) the megafauna began to disappear. And apparently, men hunted large prey and therefore, were a problem to those who already had the Smilodon. The Smilodon appeared 1 million years ago and disappeared 10,000 years ago.

 It is thought that the Sabertooth tiger hunting in ambuscade because he was a great runner. The huge muscles had generated much heat and would have suffocated in long races. Also, cats have a long tail serves for balance, while also running. The tail of Smilodon did not exceed 35 cm, for experts have concluded that there was a good runner.

Sabertoothed vs Cave lion

At the end, when I put the title, I opted for the most striking title, but my intention was to title this entry: "Cave Lion, Sabretooth and Isthmus of Panama" ... for being this last element would change the configuration of these super-predators who lived North and South America. Let me explain.

Now, to get into this exciting evolutionary battle, we must consider two things:

1 - Today, the largest cat is the Siberian Tiger ... to about 105 cm and 220 kg.

2 - South and North America were cut off, separated by an ocean, and different species living in each of the old continent.

When in one place and at the same time coincide two similar species with similar characteristics and common prey, one of the two species usually be favored over the other. The species "loser" or disappears or should look other prey in other ecological niches that are not exploited by the species "winner". This, over the years can promote morphological changes occur in the species "loser" and then, the two species are no longer rivals to specialize each in their prey and their characteristics.

Well, this I had to tell you that you may understand better what happened between these two species: American cave lion (Panthera leo atrox) and the saber-toothed tiger (Similodon).

In the Pleistocene, there were these two species. The cave lion was king. It was clever, powerful, with a strong bite and we could say it was the super-predator. It weighed about 360 kg - 400 kg and no other animals, such as wolves, bears or other feline, was able to intimidate it. In fact, in its name we can appreciate the sentiment that created to its discoverers, atrox means terrible.

Then we have the second best, it was the saber tooth tiger (Smilodon fatalis), not that it was small. It was quite large and robust enough, maybe a little less intelligent and less social life. It weighed about 280 kg, so we could say that weighed the same as a Siberian tiger overweight ... but that does not exist in nature.

The cave lion weighed fourth part the sabertooth. And with that weight, this old lion, keeping at bay potential sabertooth. It would be like the African lion and leopard. The saber-tooth (as leopard) had to settle for smaller prey with other predators steal them and take care that they are not stolen and ultimately ... was content to be in the shadow of the Great Cave Lion .... But this did not last long ... the Sabretooth had his opportunity and took it.

In the mid-Pleistocene and in a process that lasted hundreds of years, North America joined with the south, forming what we known today as the Isthmus of Panama. This event is one of the most important, geologically speaking, of which have occurred in the last 60 million years. Varied weather gave way to global and fauna from north to south, and vice versa ... is called the Great American Interchange.

The first cross was the Smilodon fatalis. Over time and thanks to the lack of predators (thought) evolved a new species called Smilodon populator a kind to settle at the top of the food pyramid, a prehistoric beast weighing 450 kg, more robust and larger than not only its relative the Smilodon fatalis, but also that their "oppressor" of the north, the Cave Lion North America.

Two species maintained their reigns until a few thousand years ago, our ancestors probably met them, and some were killed in confrontations with these powerful animals: The Lion cave in the north and Sabretooth in the south.

Josephoartigasia monesi

Josephoartigasia monesi was a giant prehistoric rodent from the Pliocene, the largest known to date. It is estimated that between four and lived two million years in what is now Uruguay. It is an extinct species of rodent and as said the largest rodent in history.

The species measured approximately 3 m long and 1.5 m high. In life they were about the size of a car. Their incisors were more than 30 cm long. The animal weighed about a ton, and fed on soft grasses.

The fossil (the skull), more than half a meter, it belonged to a species closely related to the current hamsters, and found the first skull of an animal that was known to have existed but over which he had of remains found.

Among their predators can find the cave lion and Smilodon.


The Smilodon are among the largest felids, the heaviest specimens of this massively built carnivore may have exceeded 400 kg (880 lb).

A Smilodon had a short tail, powerful legs, muscular neck and long canines. Despite being around the same size as a tiger or lion, Smilodon was more robustly built, comparable to a bear.
It shown to scale to demonstrate the compact muscular buildA fully-grown Smilodon weighed approximately 55 to 360 kg (120 to 790 lb), depending on species.

Smilodon had relatively shorter and more massive limbs than other felines. It had well developed flexors and extensors in its forepaws,[citation needed] which enabled it to pull down large prey. The back limbs had powerfully built adductor muscles which might have helped the cat's stability when wrestling with prey. Its claws were retractable.

Teeth and jaws

They are the longest canines of the saber-toothed cats at about 28 cm (11 in) long in the largest species Smilodon populator. They were probably built more for stabbing than slashing. Despite being more powerfully built than other large cats, Smilodon actually had a weaker bite. Modern big cats have more pronounced zygomatic arches, while Smilodon had smaller zygomatic arches 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.There seems to a be a general rule that the saber-toothed cats with the largest canines had proportionally weaker bites. However, analyses of canine bending strength (the ability of the canine teeth to resist bending forces without breaking) and bite forces indicate that saber-toothed cats' teeth were stronger relative to the bite force than those of modern "big cats". In addition, Smilodon could open its jaws 120 degrees, whereas the lion can only open its jaws to 65 degrees.

Smilodon probably preyed on a wide variety of large game including bison, Megatherium, Aurochs, deer, American camels, horses and . As it is known for the saber-toothed cat Homotherium, Smilodon might have killed also juvenile mastodons and mammoths.

Smilodon called sabre-toothed cat or sabre-toothed tiger, is an extinct genus of the subfamily machairodontine saber-toothed cats endemic to North America and South America living from the Early Pleistocene through Lujanian stage of the Pleistocene epoch (1.8 mya—10,000 years ago), existing for approximately 1.790 milion years.
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