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Smilodon, apex large game hunter, or prehistoric thug?

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posted on Nov, 8 2011 @ 12:05 AM
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One of my favorite prehistoric animals of all time has to be smilodon, aka the saber toothed cat. Everyone else seems to like this animal as well, and Discovery has done a number of shows regarding how the smilodon lived. Most of the evidence used in making these shows, comes from other animals that inhabit the earth right now. Very little facts are known about smilodon, most of it comes from theory and conjecture, and can be largely selective. Let's do a bit of analysis and selection of our own.


The first bit of real evidence we can examine, is a full smilodon skeleton, as seen here. The most pronounced thing you notice about the skeleton, are the large teeth.

The recent theory is that smilodon used these very carefully, for killing prey as it was held down. By their theory, the smilodon would have no means to grasp an animal other than it's claws. Beyond this theory being highly inefficient, and risky, if you look at the size of the front paws, they're smaller than the back ones. Why would an animal that intended to grasp and basically wrestle with it's prey, have small front paws? Large and round paws with long sharp claws would seem to be the best setup for such a tactic, that nature could provide.




Smilodon populator ("Smilodon the Devastator"), 1 million-10,000 years ago; occurred in the eastern parts of South America and was the largest species of all machairodonts. It was much larger than its cousins, S. fatalis and S. gracilis, possessing a massive chest and front legs, and is the largest known variety of sabre-toothed cat. It was more than 1.22 m (48 in) high at the shoulder, 2.6 m (100 in) long on average and had a 30 cm (12 in) tail. With an estimated weight of 360 to 470 kg (790 to 1,000 lb), it was among the heaviest known felids.


Knowing this information, and comparing it to what is an obviously robust skeleton, what does this say about smilodon literally? It was one big s.o.b. with really big teeth that's what. The idea of hunting bison and large game, is interesting, but why be so large, and do so in such an inefficient manor? Nature is not inefficient. What would an animal need with large teeth, a heavy body that obviously wasn't built for hunting in the manor that's been put forth? To answer this question we can compare what we know with smilodon, to what we know with other animals alive today.

The most similar animal I can think of, is a pitbull. It shares the large shoulders, back, front legs, shorter and smaller back leg with smilodon. Even though a pitbull was bred by humans, what was he bred to do? Anyone that's ever owned or been around a pitbull can tell you these things are truth. One, a pitbull couldn't catch a cold. They're slow runners. Two, they're strong pullers and graspers. Once they get something, they're not letting it go. What would a pitbull do well in the wild you ask? Bully other animals. Left to themselves, a pitbull would probably scavenge mainly, by throwing other animals off of kills. Many would say that due to the evidence of smilodon having weak jaw muscles, it was not a puller. Why would something need any grasping power when it's front teeth would go completely through anything it bit? It wouldn't! It would be similar to jabbing a spike into the item. Very little force required once the "hooks" are set.

Another animal that shares some striking similarity to smilodon, is the hyena. It's got a long neck, and short legs with the same slopped backwards hips, and a very short tail. Modern theory suggests that smilodon was a short range sprinter, that quickly wrestled and killed prey. The hyena on the other hand, is a long range lumbering runner that kills it's prey with a variety of bites and pulling. Like the pitbull, they couldn't catch a cold. Why would an animal that was allegedly a sprinter, be built more like an MMA fighter?

One of my favorite animals, the cheetah, is the best sprinter on the planet. It looks nothing like smilodon. In fact, they're about as far apart as two felids can get. The cheetah has a short neck, that's not designed for pulling or grasping. They hunt, something like theorists would have us believe smilodon hunted. They subdue the prey, and then go for the killing bite. If smilodon hunted in this fashion, why the long neck? Long necks are for biting and grasping. We know this.

They seem to think that smilodon hunted similarly to modern lions, but in a more controlled less teethy fashion. Let's compare these two animals. At first glance they may appear rather similar thanks to the modern artwork, but let's dig deeper. The lion is also rather heavy and thick, but it also equally thick and long, front and read legs. This makes them a well balanced and pliable animal for wrestling prey. The lion does have a reasonable sized neck, but do not have a neck as long as smilodon. Smilodon on the other hand, has the build of a canine more so than a felid.

The final blow to the newer theories about smilodon, comes from the prey they claimed it hunted. They claim that smilodon hunted large game animals from the thick undercover of the forest. One problem, large game will not go into a forest if they can help it.
They seem to have painted this animal up as a giant bobcat/lion thing, when in reality, all evidence points to smilodon being mostly a scavenger, and a bully of other animals. Lions are largly regarded as hunters, but in truth, they spend most of their time throwing hyena's and other smaller animals off of kills. Which brings me to the real answer of, why those teeth are so darned big. All the better to kill you with. A smilodon evolved to kill and intimidate other animals, that is obvious. The teeth weren't designed to kill prey quickly, they were designed to be thrust into any animal that would oppose them. The fact that they're often compared to the grizzly bear in build, only lends credence to this idea.




posted on Nov, 8 2011 @ 12:58 AM
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reply to post by Evolutionsend
 
Interesting subject for a thread. In comparisons between Bengals and Sabre-Toothed tigers, the SB has slightly shorter fore-limbs, greater pectoral density and broader bones. The analogy that springs to my mind is the Bengal tiger being Muhammed Ali and the SB as Mike Tyson. Ali had more stamina and pace and Tyson went for the quickest KO.

With the SB's weaker bite, it's likely it used its great strength up-front to grip the prey and quickly sever jugular/carotids with the canines. Oddly, it seems that this was possibly a weak moment for the SB as there's some evidence in bones and skulls of bites by other SBs and canine animals. Maybe, critters like hyenas today, attacked the SB at kills to take the kill?

I hadn't thought of the sabre-teeth being a weakness before and wonder if the brute, impact strength compensated for the vulnerability of weak bite and fragile teeth? This would go against it being a scavenger and suggest its prey would be low risk, quick kills that couldn't put up too much of a fight.

Much like the cheetah has to have a very high success rate in kills (energy expended causes exhaustion and vulnerability), maybe the SB had similar motivation? Given its incredible weight and muscle mass, they must have eaten a stack of food in a competitive environment and been able to defend themselves enough to be a presence for so many hundreds of thousands of years.

So on consideration of your OP, yup, I'd agree they could be thuggish.



posted on Nov, 8 2011 @ 01:09 AM
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reply to post by Kandinsky
 


Although the teeth may be a weak point, they're by no means weak teeth. I think the teeth evolved more as hooks rather than sabers. Think about it for a second. What is the most effective way to ensure that you win a tug of war, grasp something, or set a hook in it? Think of a fish hook. You either win the tug o war, and catch a fish, or the fish pulls the hook out and a chunk of flesh goes with it. Given the prospect of the smilodon getting into a tug o war with something else, would the teeth ever break? I think not. I think smilodon would always either rip it from another animals grasp, or tear the chunk while pulling with the sabers. I think the idea of them being used as weapons is over rated. Intimidation, yes. Pulling and hooking, yes. Stabbing, probably not often.

As far as their massive upper body strength goes? Look at the skeleton again, and compare it to the lion. The lion is a more graspy predator that we know to exist today. When they hunt larger game they will use their front limbs and mouth to hold on to it. They have a shorter lower leg, and a longer upper leg. This gives them a good amount of grip. Smilodon, has longer lower potions, and shorter upper portions. That's a terrible design for gripping anything, but it's a good design for swatting quickly and pulling backwards.



That video shows how capable lions are at killing large prey, and how they fight with each other. Based on this behavior and the differences between the two, I think smilodon was not built for hunting. His build would've given him a distinct advantage at fighting in the same style as other felids, but that's about it.
edit on 8-11-2011 by Evolutionsend because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 11 2011 @ 07:51 AM
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Luckily, we have some footage of Smiledon doing their thing. Without this I am not sure if we could ever settle the matter.


www.youtube.com...

I saw a show studying their bite mechanics. Their long teeth could be a liability sometimes. I like the the idea of the teeth fulfilling more of a display role versus solely a functional role.



posted on Nov, 11 2011 @ 07:10 PM
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reply to post by ABNARTY
 


i think they were 50% intimidation, 25% for hooking into scraps and kills to steal a bite, and another 25% for actually hurting another predator, not prey. They're just too big of an oddity to be used regularly against prey imo.
edit on 11-11-2011 by Evolutionsend because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 11 2011 @ 08:58 PM
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reply to post by Evolutionsend
 


A good thread op, but one of the more interesting questions that comes to mind when reading all that and thinking about them....What about them made them eventually go extinct, especially when the decedents of the other big cats, who don't seem to have changed that much, are walking around today. There many big baddies throughout time that have went extinct for a verity of reasons, while there smaller and less infamous cousins are still around.




The most similar animal I can think of, is a pitbull. It shares the large shoulders, back, front legs, shorter and smaller back leg with smilodon. Even though a pitbull was bred by humans, what was he bred to do? Anyone that's ever owned or been around a pitbull can tell you these things are truth. One, a pitbull couldn't catch a cold. They're slow runners.


There fast enough, but there city bread dogs, so there instincts are dull by comparison to lots of other dogs out there...There instincts are all wrong, for instance my dog when I took her to the park, there used to be rabbits around...And as soon as she saw one, she took off like the wind after it.

Now any smart dog, or at least a dog that was raised or trained would know that you first have to sneak up, or stalk the prey before you go chasing it. No matter how fast you are, you still have to do a little stalking and only go all out when the opportunity presents itself...

But anyways fast is really overrated, and you can bet the smilodon did a lot more stalking then running. And even cheetahs do there own version of stalking and choosing of there pray. Before they pull the trigger and take off.




Two, they're strong pullers and graspers. Once they get something, they're not letting it go. What would a pitbull do well in the wild you ask? Bully other animals. Left to themselves, a pitbull would probably scavenge mainly, by throwing other animals off of kills.


As a pack animal hunter if they inhabit the wolf mentality they can be dangerous in a pack to any other animal out there, though once winter hits with there short fur, they will definitely be at a disadvantage and probably freeze to death....But however like I said there senses and instincts are dulled, if left by themselves in the wild as they are today and with no training...Pitbulls would be scavengers, so ya I think your right.

However over time and with mixing of different genetics if left to themselves in the wild...I think they would eventually adapt and possibly thrive. The way I see it, and over generations they could go the way of the wild dogs, that is they would lose a lot of there muscle mass for weight and energy conservation reasons, ie go down in size and become scavengers or pack scavengers. Or they would go the way of the wolf pack.




Another animal that shares some striking similarity to smilodon, is the hyena. It's got a long neck, and short legs with the same slopped backwards hips, and a very short tail. Modern theory suggests that smilodon was a short range sprinter, that quickly wrestled and killed prey. The hyena on the other hand, is a long range lumbering runner that kills it's prey with a variety of bites and pulling


Not sure about this but last I heard is that hyenas, are actually out surviving breeding and thriving the bigger cats such as lions and cheetahs....So they must be ultimately be doing something right. Were as the smilodon was doing something wrong, hence extinction. I think if you compare those two animals smilodon and hyena you would find many reasons why and how the whole nature went, and how it can go in the future. Ultimately I think size and habitat played a big part in ones survival and ones extinction. Contrary to what people say, bigger is not always better.


But I think your right, the smilodon was a bully and scavenger...Those teeth are just not that useful in real life as a functional multi purpose tool they completely fail, there are no doubt are many reasons why we do not see them in today's bigger cats...But really even as hooks or one bite killing tools they would fail against the bigger pray of the time or even today, if anything they probably went after only the midsize to small game out there. And they just seem to be more for looks and intimidation, or possibly some sort of matting issues of attracting mates which went a little farther then it should, and it lead to a disadvantage on the longer scale and bigger picture of things.

If anything it would be kind of pointless and not very useful thing to have in today's world for any predator wild animal to have, they seem so out of place. Can you imagine a lion or any other big cats with those things as a functional tool in all that they do, I cant. If anything there probably were a lot of smilodons with half broken fangs.



posted on Nov, 11 2011 @ 09:13 PM
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reply to post by galadofwarthethird
 


A good explanation for why they could've gone extinct, would be a lack of success from other predatory species. If you get your food from scavenging, and theft, you'll hurt the hardest when things get rough.





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