Bizarre saber-tooth predator from South America was no saber-tooth cat

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2020-06-28 19:02:38

Skulls and life reconstructions of the marsupial saber-tooth Thylacosmilus atrox (left) and the saber-tooth cat Smilodon fatalis (right). Credit: Stephan Lautenschlager A new study led by researchers from the University of Bristol has shown that not all saber-tooths were fearsome predators. Saber-tooth cats, such as the North American species Smilodon fatalis, are among the most…

Saber-tooth cats, such as the North American species Smilodon fatalis, are among the most iconic fossil animals with a reputation for being fierce predators. However, saber-tooths came in all shapes and sizes and nearly a hundred different saber-tooths are known to science so far.

Thylacosmilus atrox (which means ‘terrible pouched knife’) is a well-known animal that lived around five million years ago in Argentina.

A jaguar-sized marsupial, it is popularly known as the ‘marsupial saber-tooth’, compared with the sabertoothed cats elsewhere in the world, and it is often presented as a classic case of convergent evolution—where animals appear similar in form despite having very different evolutionary relationships (such as marsupial flying possums and placental flying squirrels—both of course being gliders rather than true fliers).

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