Skip to main content

Smilodon

Cold, dry plains

Smilodon as portrayed in "Walking with Beasts"

We are looking at South America during the Pleistocene epoch (28), at about one million years ago. Smilodon, king of the sabre tooths was roaming the South American plains. They lived together in close-knit prides much like modern day lions. They were the largest of all sabre tooth cats, reaching over two meters in length and weighing between 200-240 kilograms with some males even more than that. "Smilodon" means knife tooth, an appropriate name for its 17 centimeter long sabre teeth. (29)

Their short tail and powerful build suggest that they ambushed their prey, followed by a short explosive chase. Their size and stocky build however did not give them endurance, but they probably hunted the large herbivores that lived on the plains, working together as a pack. (30) Their long sabre teeth were knife sharp and allowed them to slice through meat, but they were also a hindrance being quite fragile and this prevented them from eating anything, but the fleshy parts of a kill.

Fossils have been found in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Europe and Northern America, especially the Le Brea tar pit around Los Angeles, USA. (29, 30)

Sabre toothed animals are an excellent example of convergent evolution, as they had evolved in several evolutionary lineages, from the true cats (Felidae) to some mammals from the extinct order Creodonta and even some marsupial "cats" that inhabited South America from the Miocene to the late Pliocene. (30)