The forgotten sabertooth

TwilightBeasts

Homotherium latidens. A powerful, confident and rather thoughtful European Scimitar Cat (Homotherium latidens) roaming the Middle Pleistocene. (Painting by Tabitha Paterson)

If the Pleistocene megafauna held a popularity contest then I’m certain that some species would pop up more than others. The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), the giant ground sloth (Megatherium americanum) and sabretooth cat (Smilodon fatalis) are probably the gold, silver, and bronze of extinct mammals. Diego from the Ice Age films, the striped menace in 10,000BC, and (perhaps showing my age) the sabretooth in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger are all clearly typical of Smilodon sp. The long thin canines protrude well below the lower jaw, and the robust bear like bodyform that this genus is known for are obvious in all three cinematic depictions.

The reason that Smilodon fatalis has embedded deep into the collective unconscious can be put down to…

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