Exploring Saber-Toothed Cats Through Fossils

There were seven species of true saber-toothed cats who once roamed the Earth. There were dozens of so-called “false saber-toothed cats” who may have outwardly appeared to belong to the select group but had different morphologies (bone structure and size), but only seven species of cats who were the genuine article. And today, we’re going to take a look at all of them.

Saber Tooth Skull FossilMachairodus

Machairodus was first thought to be a bear when discovered in 1824, but in the years shortly following, the mistake was rectified. This cat was about the size of a lion. They actually had serrated saber teeth, unlike many saber-toothed cats, but these serrations wore down after the first few years of life. Unlike other saber-toothed cats, their teeth were firmly anchored in their skulls and wouldn’t have been in any danger of breaking off. Therefore, it’s likely that Machariodus attacked prey by hanging onto it with their long teeth. This saber-toothed cat lived in woodland and hunted the ancestors of horses and deer.



Amphimachairodus lived in Central Africa. They also had teeth which were firmly rooted in the skull, and probably hunted in a similar way to Machairodus. They lived in the same environment as modern lions and probably ate and lived like them, too. They likely would have often stolen prey from the hyenas who lived alongside them, but could be scared away from their own prey by the bears who lived in Africa at the time.



Homotherini Full Skeleton



Homotherini are also known as the “scimitar-toothed cats”. They were smaller than other types of saber-toothed cats and had a serrated edge to their teeth, like Machairodus. Unlike Machairodus and Amphimachairodus, their teeth would have been broken off had they attempted the same attacking moves. They were too weak to sustain the twisting that would have occurred during the kill.



No, Dinofelis was not a dinosaur-cat hybrid. They were about the size of a jaguar and lived in Eurasia and Africa. They moved between woodlands and marshy areas and hunted medium-sized prey. Dinofelis has been found connected to early hominids often, and it is believed that the saber-toothed cat might have regularly preyed on Austrolopithicus. They most likely went extinct when the forest habitat decreased with the Ice Age.



Promegantereon is the oldest saber-toothed cat species we know about. They were a little less than two feet tall at the shoulder and hunted in the forests of Europe and North America. Because of their smaller size, other species of saber-toothed cats would likely have driven Promegantereon away from their prey. However, they were fierce enough to do the same thing to other predators who were smaller or less dangerous. They hunted in a dangerous way, meaning that lots of evidence has been found which shows that they risked breaking their teeth every time they attacked a larger herbivore, and lots did break their teeth.



Megantereon was a little larger and heavier than saber-toothed cats were on average. These cats also interacted with humans in Eurasia and Africa, but this time, the hominids weren’t prey. Megantereon likely saw them as rivals for the same food sources. This saber-toothed cat lived fairly recently in Europe and only went extinct about 900,000 years ago.



Smilodon Full SkeletonThis is the saber-toothed cat that you probably think of first. It’s sometimes mistakenly called a saber-toothed tiger, though they weren’t tigers. Smilodon was larger and more robust than any other saber-toothed cat and more so than modern cats, too. They lived in North America and hunted megafauna. Fossils show that they regularly fought over prey with dire wolves and American lions. They were probably very social and might have lived in groups, as lots of Smilodon fossils have been found together at the La Brea tar pits in California, meaning they responded to calls for help from other cats.

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Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed learning about the different types of saber-toothed cats. If you have a question or request, please leave it in the comments down below. We publish a new blog every Tuesday and Friday so, until next time, goodbye!

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