28 Facts About Smilodon


Smilodon is a genus of the extinct machairodont subfamily of the felids.

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The coat pattern of Smilodon is unknown, but it has been artistically restored with plain or spotted patterns.

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In North America, Smilodon hunted large herbivores such as bison and camels, and it remained successful even when encountering new prey species in South America.

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Smilodon is thought to have killed its prey by holding it still with its forelimbs and biting it, but it is unclear in what manner the bite itself was delivered.

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Smilodon probably lived in closed habitats such as forests and bush, which would have provided cover for ambushing prey.

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Smilodon stated it would have matched the largest modern predators in size, and was more robust than any modern cat.

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Smilodon explained the species name populator as "the destroyer", which has been translated as "he who brings devastation".

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Fossils of Smilodon were discovered in North America from the second half of the 19th century onwards.

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Smilodon referred the specimen to the genus Felis but found it distinct enough to be part of its own subgenus, as F fatalis.

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One of the most famous of prehistoric mammals, Smilodon has often been featured in popular media and is the state fossil of California.

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Long the most completely known saber-toothed cat, Smilodon is still one of the best-known members of the group, to the point where the two concepts have been confused.

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Smilodon was around the size of modern big cats, but was more robustly built.

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Miller instead proposed that Smilodon would have looked very different from a typical cat and similar to a bulldog, with a lower lip line, a more retracted nose and lower-placed ears.

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Paleoartist Mauricio Anton and coauthors disputed this in 1998 and maintained that the facial features of Smilodon were overall not very different from those of other cats.

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Isotopic analysis for Smilodon populator suggests that its main prey species included Toxodon platensis, Pachyarmatherium, Holmesina, species of the genus Panochthus, Palaeolama, Catonyx, Equus neogeus, and the crocodilian Caiman latirostris.

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Brain of Smilodon had sulcal patterns similar to modern cats, which suggests an increased complexity of the regions that control the sense of hearing, sight, and coordination of the limbs.

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Smilodon was likely an ambush predator that concealed itself in dense vegetation, as its limb proportions were similar to modern forest dwelling cats, and its short tail would not have helped it balance while running.

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Unlike its ancestor Megantereon, which was at least partially scansorial and therefore able to climb trees, Smilodon was probably completely terrestrial due to its greater weight and lack of climbing adaptations.

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On rare occasions, as evidenced by fossils, Smilodon was willing to risk biting into bone with its canines.

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However, evidence from comparisons with Homotherium suggest that Smilodon was fully capable of and utilized the canine shear-bite as its primary means of killing prey, based on the fact that it had a thick skull and relatively little trabecular bone, while Homotherium had both more trabecular bone and a more lion-like clamping bite as its primary means of attacking prey.

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Many Smilodon specimens have been excavated from asphalt seeps that acted as natural carnivore traps.

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However, a Smilodon suffering hip dysplasia at a young age that survived to adulthood suggests that it could not have survived to adulthood without aid from a social group, as this individual was unable to hunt or defend its territory due to the severity of its congenital issue.

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The brain of Smilodon was relatively small compared to other cat species.

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Smilodon started developing its adult saber-teeth when the animal reached between 12 and 19 months of age, shortly after the completion of the eruption of the cat's baby teeth.

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Juvenile and adolescent Smilodon specimens are extremely rare at Rancho La Brea, where the study was performed, indicating that they remained hidden or at denning sites during hunts, and depended on parental care while their canines were developing.

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Examinations by Reynolds, Seymour, and Evans suggest that Smilodon had a unique and fast growth rate similar to a tiger, but that there was a prolonged period of growth in the genus similar to what is seen in lions, and that the cubs were reliant on their parents until this growth period ended.

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Several Smilodon fossils show signs of ankylosing spondylitis, hyperostosis and trauma.

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Smilodon remains exhibit relatively more shoulder and lumbar vertebrae injuries.

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