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Re: CARNIVOROUS SLOTHS



Darren Naish wrote:
 
> WARNING: NO DINOSAURS. GROUND SLOTHS ONLY.

That's ok with me -- I'm an equal-opportunity fossil nut. <G>

> This is an invalid argument. _Smilodon_, as you may have noticed, is not just
> a big domestic cat. It's rather nicely adapted for killing big animals - err,
> doesn't it have some sort of, err, sabre-shaped teeth in its mouth? Not only
> that, but _Smilodon_ was probably social - ground sloths would have to contend
> with prides of these horrible beasts. Farina and Blanco's size ratio 
> comparison
> is further invalid as many predators are well adapted for killing prey many
> times their own size. Why choose the ratio of _Felis_ to _Homo_ when you could
> have chosen _Mustela_ to _Oryctolagus_? Weasels kill rabbits regularly - yet
> rabbits are sometimes more than 10 times bigger than weasels. And wolverines
> have been known to kill moose for god's sake! Similarly, _Smilodon_ may have
> been adapted for, and used to, tackling prey several times its own size. A
> domestic cat is not a suitable analogue.

Logic and intuition pay off again ;-) -- this is much more than a
"maybe."  One of my books on cats tells me that the La Brea Tar Pits
have yielded parts of over 1200 individual _Smilodon fatalis_.  Of
those, some 5000 bones, from at least several hundred individuals, show
the marks of injuries suffered while attacking prey.  There are scores
of specimens with damage to the rib cage, vertebrae, limbs, and muscles,
all consistent with a large, stocky animal that rushed from ambush to
tackle and wrestle with very large, massive prey, and frequently hurt
itself in the process.  The text specifically points out that these were
all obviously survivable injuries, because the cats in question didn't
die there; they healed and died later in the tar-pits. IOW, this was
apparently standard procedure for sabercats.  Whatever they were
hunting, it was big, massive, thick-skinned, and real tough.   I have no
trouble at all with the image of a sabercat or two taking on a big
ground sloth.  

-- JSW