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
. The most pronounced thing you notice about the skeleton, are the
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
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
. 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
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
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
, 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.