Due to the recent discovery that paleontologists have made, saber-toothed cats take three years to grow their massive canines, their bite being less harmful than scientists initially believed. The finding was made after scientists at the University of South Carolina analyzed the recently found fossil with the help of X-ray imaging and computer-generated programs.
A group of paleontologists from the Clemson University of South Carolina came across well-preserved fossils of saber-toothed cats as they were investigating the surroundings of the La Brea Tar Pits. There are many materials of investigation that researchers can find in the region, particularly those belonging to mammoths, wolves, bison and mastodons.
The recently discovered relic of a saber-toothed cat has proven scientists that these felines take many more years to grow their ferocious canines than it previously estimated. Based on the analyses they have made with the help of the X-ray imaging technology, experts have understood that saber cats take 14 to 22 months to grow their teeth.
However, their impressively long canines, which are visible even when cats keep their mouths shut, develop at an older age; thus, requiring approximately three years to be completely grown. The structure of the canines has been studied by closely observing the oxygen isotopes of the tooth’s enamel.
Using computer-generated programs, paleontologists were further able to recreate the biting technique that saber cats use when killing their victims. Results have shown that the bite is actually weaker compared to their gripping force.
Apparently, the saber-toothed tigers use their claws to clinch to the hunt and the force of their body to bring the weaker animal to the ground. The 18-cm long canines are simply used to kill the pray by biting into their necks and severing their arteries.
The Smilodon fatalis cat used to rely on its speed to catch and to immobilize the prey. Their victims were usually large species, such as, mammoths and bison, which are known to be very slow. In addition, the saber cats developed powerful neck muscles which enabled them to kill other animals, in spite of the struggles they made to survive.
The study of the La Brea Tar Pits relics has also showed scientists that this species went extinct approximately 10,000 years ago.
The findings of the study are to be found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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