Saber-tooth felines, the long-gone ancestors of modern cats, had very long canines which they used to rip the flesh of their prey and that according to a new study, grew very long in a short period of time.
The saber-tooth felines appeared in the South and North America approximately 700,000 years ago and lived until 11,000 years ago. Known by their scientific name Smilodon fatalis, these big cats could take on big prey like camels and bison using their upper canine daggers that grew as long as 7 inches.
A recent study suggests that their long teeth grew that long in a short period of time. The researchers published their findings in the latest edition of the journal PLOS One.
The team of scientists analyzed fossilized remains of saber-tooth feline skulls discovered in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. According to their findings, the ancient cats’ canines grew a quarter of an inch a month, which is twice as fast compared to modern African lions.
The paleontologists who examined the sabers said that the ancient felines most likely used their long upper teeth to bite into the neck of their prey and tear the arteries and veins, which brought a quick death to their victims.
The saber-tooth felines were approximately the same size as the modern tigers or lions, but were built heavier than today’s wild cats. The ancient cats were able to leap on their prey and hold on to it using their powerful limbs.
Jack Tseng, paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and one do the study’s lead authors, described the saber-tooth felines as “a lion on steroids with knives coming out of its mouth”.
Tseng said that the ancient feline had “baby sabers” that preceded the long ones. The prehistoric felines would shed their baby teeth at about one and a half years, while the long, permanent canines would appear by the time they were 3 and a half years. Researchers found that for several months, before they shed the baby teeth, the ancient felines had both sets of canines in their mouth.
Aleksander Wysocki, researcher at Clemson University, said that saber-tooth felines were very good hunters from a young age due to the fact that their teeth grew very fast.
Despite the size of their sabers, the researchers said the bite of the saber-tooth felines was not much stronger than that of modern lions.
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