According to a new study conducted by a team of paleontologists, the bite of the prehistoric felines known as the saber-toothed tigers was not as strong as it was previously assumed, despite the size of their canines.
The researchers also found that the ancient cats’ long fangs took approximately three years to reach their maximum size. However, the ferocious felines did not have such a strong bite as it was previously believed. The experts analyzed the skeletons of saber-toothed tigers using X-ray imaging and computerized technology to learn more about the prehistoric predators.
Scientists from the University of North Carolina said they examined the animals’ fossils discovered in the La Brea Tar Pits. According to their findings, the saber-toothed felines had lived during the Ice Age and survived preying on other big mammals, such as mammoths, mastodons, bison, camels and wolves.
The ancestors of modern felines had very long canines that were visible even when their mouth was closed. The analysis revealed that their front saber teeth took about 36 months to grow and reach that size. The researchers were able to determine this by analyzing the isotopes of oxygen found in the enamel of the massive canine teeth.
The paleontologists simulated the strength of the saber-toothed tigers’ bite using computer technology. They found that the ancient felines had a stronger gripping force, compared to the force of their bite. According to the experts, the saber-tooth felines used their long, sharp claws to grasp their prey and their body strength to keep the hunt on the ground. After the prey was unable to move, the felines used their 18-centimeters-long sabers to tear at their victims’ throats.
Jack Tseng, scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, the department of paleontology, said that it was very important for the saber-toothed tigers to have their long canines as soon as possible because it was their killing weapon. It was a good thing that the sabers took only three years to grow, Tseng added.
The saber-toothed cats hunted mostly big animals like mammoths and bison, choosing them because they weren’t very fast creatures. The analysis showed that the prehistoric felines had very strong necks, which was essential in their act of hunting and killing their prey.
According to the paleontologists, the saber-toothed tigers found in the La Brea Tar Pits died approximately 10,000 years ago of unknown causes.
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