Those long, threatening sabers were in fact slow to grow for the saber-tooth cats, a new study suggests.
A team of researchers took one more look at fossilized saber-tooth cats to unravel how fast did the deadly weapons grow and when did they start emerging.
It turned out that the sabers in the saber-tooth cats grew slowly, reaching full functionality when the cats were already in their adulthood at three years old. Also, their bite was not that strong or deadly, the new research reveals.
Smilodon fatalis as the saber-tooth cat is known in the scientific community roamed the territories of modern Northern and Southern Americas approximately 10,000 years ago. It was one of the largest predators around, but it seems only after the canines grew sufficiently.
Otherwise, the cubs and young adults has to be fiercely protected by their mothers until they could hunt on their own and protect themselves.
The two saber-like canines emerged slowly, with a growth rate of only 6 millimeters per month according to the new analysis. This places the growth rate at a more accelerated pace than that of the African lion’s canines with two times as fast development.
The analysis was conducted making use of X-rays, computer models and oxygen isotope tests to determine exactly the rate of growth of the saber-tooth cat’s canines. The results were published in the journal PLOS One.
When they reached maturity at three years old, the young Smilodon fatalis adults started roaming the territory for prey. Most probably, the saber-like canines were useful in biting the prey’s neck and quickly severing arteries for a quick death and a quick meal.
Except for their length, the saber-like canines of the saber-tooth cat did not bestow a strong bite as well. Before the sabers were fully developed, researchers believe that the strength of the Smilodon fatalis bite was only one third that of the modern tiger.
Even afterwards, there is little indication that the bite could have been strong. The length of the sabers, almost 18 centimeters seemed to be the only advantage of the fully developed canines. Except for the frightening looks, of course.
To this extent, Dr. Steve Wroe, senior researcher on the study believes that the findings of the team could well demolish previously upheld myths surrounding the giant predator cat, Smilodon fatalis.
Nonetheless, while the saber-like canines are now proven to be not as deadly, the saber-tooth cat compensated by its well-muscled strong body, its claws, as impressive as the saber canines and a strong neck that aided Smilodon fatalis to pin its prey to the ground.
Therefore, while the bite of the saber-tooth cat might have not been as powerful as previously thought, there is a large number of fossils in La Brea Tar Pits that could prove just how deadly the predator was.
Image Source: animalstime.com