The saber tooth tiger or Smilodon refers to the prehistoric big cat that had existed during the last ice age some 12,000 years ago. Scientists usually call them Smilodon although they are also called saber-toothed tiger precisely due to their protruding front canines extending out of their mouth. However tiger-like they may appear to you, Smilodon weren’t even closely related to modern day tigers or lions.
Scientists have recognized three subspecies of Smilodon. When we say ‘Saber-toothed cats’ we generally refer to all those predatory mammals that had the iconic front canines like Smildon. Lately, scientists assume that there could have more saber tooth tigers lived than we anticipated. Perhaps it’s time to dig out some of the most interesting and amazing saber tooth tiger facts.
Saber tooth tigers were probably the biggest of all the ice age big cats. While it had two big seemingly strong canines which could reach the length of 11 inches scientists are still trying to understand as to how the cat used those extra tooth. Recent study indicates that saber tooth cats had a weak bite force in fact they would use their neck muscles to subdue their prey.
Out of the three subspecies of saber tooth tiger the S. populator was probably the biggest. The smallest subspecies was S. gracilis whereas the S. fatalis thought be of medium size. The smallest Smilodon would reach the same size as a present-day jaguar.
Saber tooth tigers had roamed around the land for as long as 42 million years with the last of the population vanished off the earth some 10,000 years ago.
Paleontologists discovered saber-toothed tigers from South America, North America, and Central America.
See the two long canines that extends out of the Smilodon’s mouth even when it’s closed.
The saber tooth tiger would make its habitat in plains and woodlands. They were thought to be ambush predators and so they probably lived around bushy plains and forested habitats one that could provide them cover against the prey.
The overall morphology as well as the skull of numerous saber tooth cats resembles clouded leopards existing today, according to scientists. In time, the bodies of big cats tuned out to be not only more robust—they also gained pretty powerful bite force.
The S. gracilis is known to be the earliest of the saber tooth cats which had lived from 2.5 million years ago to 500,000 years ago.
The Saber-Tooth Tiger. Daniel Reed
Saber-toothed tigers had forelegs longer than their rear legs—forcing their entire body posture just a little higher. Unlike modern big cats, the Smilodon had much shorter tail. Since S. populator is the largest subspecies it has longest canines too—reaching up to 28 cm (11 in) in length.
The estimated weight of the S. gracilis is about 55 to 100 kg (120 to 220 lb—the smallest of the saber-toothed cats. However, the S. populator, the biggest of the Smilodon weighed as much as 880 pounds.
Scientists are just not sure if saber-toothed tigers were social. Making this worse, the modern-day big cats aren’t really helpful as analogs.
Saber-toothed tiger is an ambush hunter.
Studies suggest that the saber-toothed tiger had smaller brain in comparison to the present-day big cats. This fact coupled with a few others forced scientists to believe that the big cat would not be social animal at all.
Young saber tooth tigers would reach their maximum size at 3 years age. The prominent canines continue to grow 7 mm per month for the first 12 months following birth.
Compared to modern day big cats, saber tooth tigers had weaker bites—only as third powerful as the lion’s bite according to Smithsonian.
The Smilodon wasn’t the fast runner unlike many big cats living today. Instead it stalked its prey from behind the bushes to attack and knock its prey using strong neck muscles.
Saber tooth tiger skull
Scientists are quite sure that the saber tooth tiger wasn’t the only saber-toothed cat around. There could have been many animals that occurred during the ice age.
A new study suggests that it was pretty tough for saber tooth cats to subdue the prey. They would suffer some severe injuries to their lower backs and shoulders as a result.
Earlier scientists proposed that the Smilodon could have possibly died due to its long fangs. As the cat grows so as its teeth preventing its mouth to open and so they starved to death. Later, this idea was rejected.
Saber tooth tigers are thought to be social and they also hunted in groups, a new study suggests.
Like modern lions or tigers, saber tooth tiger were also carnivores. They would feed on quite many number of herbivorous grazing mammals. The smilodon’s diet includes young mammoths, bison, camels, and mastodons.
The last of the saber tooth tiger population died out 8,000 years ago.
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