Smilodon (sometimes popularly known as the "saber-toothed cat" or
"saber-toothed tiger") was a predator that lived in North and South
America from the late Pliocene epoch to the late Pleistocene epoch,
between about 2.5 million years ago and 10,000 years ago.
Despite being sometimes called a "saber-toothed tiger", it should be noted that
Smilodon was not closely related to tigers.
Although about the size of a large lion or tiger, Smilodon was much more heavily
built, with a build more like that of a bear. The heaviest animals probably almost
900 pounds (400 kilograms).
The most immediately noticeable feature of Smilodon is of course its
massively long canine teeth. In some species these were upto 7 inches (17 centimeters)
long. It is thought that Smilodon probably wrestled its prey to the ground
and then used its canines for delivering a
killing bite to the trachea or jugular vein of the prey. This style of hunting
would have been well-suited for hunting large prey, but Smilodon would have
struggled to hunt smaller animals when the environment changed
(a fact that may have contributed to its extinction).
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