Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lion vs. Saber-toothed Tiger. Who wins?

Saber-Toothed Cat Was More Like A Pussycat Than A Tiger

I guess the title speaks for itself, but also the fact that lions are still around should be proof enough that this Ice Age beast must have had some evolutionary fault that prevented it from persisting to present day. This evolutionary fault was the power and form of its jaw. Scientists had argued for years as to the strength of the Saber-toothed Cat's (Smilodon) bite. What they have now discovered may surprise you.

The Saber-toothed Tiger, although very powerfully built, with long, knife-like canines, rivaling the Tyrannosaurus Rex as one of the greatest killing machines of all time, had a very weak bite comparatively to the modern day lion. The force of the lion's bite is 3 times as strong as the bite of a Smilodon would have been. The Smilodon's jaw was also fairly narrow, limiting t he prey types it could hunt. However, this does not mean that the Saber-toothed Cat was any less of a hunter for not having a strong bite.

The Smilodon was not a predator of smaller prey like today's lion. It used its very powerful body to tackle the massive prey that existed during the ice age. It would use that body to wrestle the larger prey to the ground then use its weak bite on the neck which would usually kill the prey instantly. However, its build and jaw type are two of the main reasons why there are not Saber-toothed tigers around today, and why lion's are still around. Its body frame and jaw are extremely over-engineered to feed on today's smaller prey. So, once its larger prey began declining at the end of the the Ice Age, the Saber-tooth was left without a proper food source, and died off as well, leaving the lion as the victor because of its modified jaw strength and form.

I know we have not quite gotten to mammals yet, but I saw this article and thought it was very interesting. Plus, Saber-toothed tigers are one of my favorite prehistoric animals, so I thought we could jump ahead a little to this.

7 comments:

  1. Sorry, I had some troubles with formatting.

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  2. That's really interesting. I never would have imagined the saber tooth's bite being 3x weaker than modern day tiger!

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  3. I have always wondered why the teeth of the sabertooth are so large. Was there any information on what the advantage or selection pressure of the large teeth were? It seems as if they would be more of a hinderence than a benefit. Perhaps that's why they are extinct!

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  4. Why was the weaker bite a benefit when hunting larger prey? And I would also like to know what was up with those large teeth. Were they found in both males and females?

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  5. This is a very interesting piece of information. Its cool to find out that the sabertooth had a very weak bite. Maybe the important arteries and veins of its prey were closer to the surface of the skin and the bite didn't need to be too hard to pierce in the correct spot.

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  6. It seems like the large teethe would be problematic during feeding.

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