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All About Smilodon
Meaning "Knife Tooth"
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During the last Ice Age, there were many large, interesting mammals, like the saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths, mastodons, and mammoths. These animals have long since gone extinct and are known mostly from fossils, frozen, mummified carcasses, and from ancient cave drawings. The pressures of a major climate change probably led to their extinction; human hunting may have made their situation even worse.
Saber-tooth cats lived in grasslands, shrubby areas, and pine forests that supported the plant-eating animals that saber-tooth cats ate.
Smilodon was a carnivore, a meat-eater. This ferocious hunter may have eaten thick-skinned prey like mastodons (hairy, extinct elephants), horses, and bison. It probably ambushed its prey since its short legs limited its running speed. Its hunting strategy may have been to mortally wound its prey with its saber-like teeth, probably in the belly, and let the victim bleed to death. Smilodon, like most meat-eaters, may also have been a scavenger.
Thousands of Smilodon fossils have been found in late Pleistocene tar pits and rocks from North America (S. californicus, which is the California State Fossil, and S. fatalis have been found in California) and South America (S. neogaeus has been found in Argentina).
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Carnivora (cats, dogs, bears, seals, weasels, etc.)
Family Felidae (cats)
Subfamily Machairodontinae (sabertooth cats)
Smilodon was named by Plieninger in 1846.
Smilodon and the other saber-toothed tigers are not closely related to modern-day tigers.
Type of Saber-Toothed Cats
These extinct cats are notable for 2 huge canine teeth among other sharp teeth in powerful jaws. They also had very strong jaw and neck muscles that let them stab prey with their deadly teeth. They ate mammoth, rhinoceros, and other thick-skinned animals. There were two major groups of saber-toothed cats: scimitar-toothed and dirk-toothed cats. Smilodon was a dirk-toothed cat. Examples include: Smilodon, the largest, Homotherium, Dinictis, and Machairodus. Fossils have been found in Pliocene to early Pleistocene rocks from both North and South America and other Northern continents.
Smilodon Saber-Toothed Cats Links
Ice age mammals from EnchantedLearning.com
Smilodon fossil from the Illinois State Museum
Saber-toothed cats from the Swedish Museum
Sabre-toothed tigers from the Museum of Paleontology at the Univ. of California, Berkeley
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