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Smilodon

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Smilodon is by far the most famous saber-tooth thanks to thousands of specimens from the La Brea Tar Pits in California. It event stars in the popular Ice Age movies as the cunning cat, Diego. However, among all saber-tooths, Smilodon is the odd-man out. It is chinless. It has no deep flange to protect the saber fang when the jaw is closed. What good was a chin-less lower jaw? Smilodon could strike with its mouth closed by pulling down the neck muscles. But Smilodons did break their sabers. Tar Pit specimens sometimes have one or even both fangs broke, with the fractured ends worn down. How could saber-toothed cats survive with broken sabers? The best theory is that mated pairs helped each other. If one injured a fang, the other took over the prey-killing duties. Or, like lions today, groups of sisters may have hunted together.

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  • Title: Smilodon

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