WHY DID THE SABER-TOOTHED TIGER BECOME EXTINCT?
The saber-toothed tiger - or more correctly - the saber-toothed cat is one of the most iconic mammals to have ever lived on this planet. However, you may be surprised to find out that there wasn't just one saber toothed cat. In fact there are over one hundred species and sub-species that can make claim to this title ranging from the extinct subfamilies of Machairodontinae (Felidae), Barbourofelidae (Feliformia), and Nimravidae (Feliformia). There are also two families related to marsupials whose remains have been found worldwide.
Be that as it may, the one species that comes to most peoples mind when they think of the saber-toothed tiger is the magnificent Smilodon.
Named from the Greek for "chisel tooth, it was described by the Danish naturalist and palaeontologist Peter Wilhelm Lund in 1841 who found the fossils of Smilodon populator in caves near the small town of Lagoa Santa, Brazil.
A fully-grown Smilodon weighed approximately 55 to 470 kg (120 to 1,000 lb), depending on species. It had a short tail, powerful legs, muscular neck and long canines. Smilodon was more robustly built than any modern cat, in fact it was more comparable to a bear! The lumbar region of the back was proportionally short, and the lower limbs were shortened relative to the upper limbs in comparison with modern pantherine cats, suggesting that Smilodon was not built for speed.
Prehistoric humans, who reached North America at the same time and are known to have hunted many of the species that disappeared at this period in time, are often viewed as responsible for this extinction wave. Others have suggested that it was the end of the ice age which caused the extinction.
As the ice sheets retreated there would have been changing vegetation patterns. Grasslands expanded. The summers became more extreme and parts of North America began to dry out. However, this hypothesis does not explain why Smilodon and its ancestors as well as other megafaunal species successfully survived many previous interglacials, and then fairly suddenly died out over the entire contiguous land area of North and South America.
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Photo care of http://psychologicalresolutions.wordpress.com/category/communication/ and http://www.bris.ac.uk/centenary/look/cabinet/smilodon.html
Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smilodon