Saber Toothed Cats Didn't Starve Into Extinction

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The fearsome felines of the Ice Age in California don’t show

signs of starving immediately before their extinction. Teeth of saber-toothed cats and the American

lions didn’t have wear marks that would have suggested the cats were gnawing on

bones in hunger near the time of the cats’ extinctions.

“Tooth wear patterns suggest that these cats were not

desperately consuming entire carcasses, as was expected, and instead seemed to

be living the ‘good life’ during the late Pleistocene, at least up until the

very end,” said lead author Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University in a

press release.  

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Tooth wear patterns did reveal previously unknown

differences in the two cat species behavior. Saber-toothed cats, also known as Smilodon, appeared to

have regularly crunched bones, and showed no increase in this dietary

distinction toward the end of their reign, which spanned from 30,000 to 10,000

years ago. American lions however, were more finicky and seem to have avoided

bones, much as modern cheetahs do.

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The extinction of the predators remains a mystery. Some have

suggested that the changing climate at

the end of the last Ice Age along with an influx of animals from Asia,

including the ferocious Homo sapiens,

may have left Smilodon with nothing to grin about.

IMAGE:

Painting of Smilodon populator from the American Museum of Natural History.

(Charles R. Knight, Wikimedia Commons)

 

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