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Re: Smilodon teeth (was DROMAEOSAUR "SICKLE" CLAWS)
Chris Campbell wrote:
> The only thing I can think of (which has been mentioned in some areas,
> not mentioned in others) is that the _Smilodon_ would leap onto the back
> of its prey, stab through the fatty tissue covering the back of the
> neck, and break the spine with a decent head shake. Clawing would make
> the teeth pointless, and would actually get in the way of a good throat
> strangle. Note that many cats today use a variant of this technique,
> simply snapping the spine with a bite to the neck (many employ both this
> method and the more common strangulation method). It seems reasonable
> that the elongated teeth would be an aid to get through thicker tissues
> on the back of the neck, thus letting the animal get at heavier prey
> which would be immune to strangulation methods (or at least highly
> resistant, given height and probably mortality for the attacker).
> Granted, there's no direct evidence (that I know of, though I've been
> out of the loop for awhile) that this is exactly what happened, but it's
> certainly consistent with what circumstantial evidence we have and the
> physiology of the sabre-tooths.
Computer models have shown that if a sabre-tooth tried to
attack the back of the neck like modern small cats its teeth would
have shattered on impact with the neck vertebrae (or on any bone
for that matter). I have seen a great animated piece showing a
sabre-tooth (I'm not sure what species) sneaking up on a mammoth/
mastodon, throwing itself at the creatures throat, sinking its
teeth into the area around the jugular, and using its strong
neck muscles to rip the throat out roughly. As for the teeth being
too blunt, the teeth of large theropods are no sharper and they
seem to have worked alright. I think the idea would have been to
make as messy a wound as possible rather than a precise surgical
I doubt they restricted themselves to mammoths/mastodons.
I seem to remember that most sabre-toothed species had fairly
vestigial carnasals, which some people have suggested shows they
probably only ate the blood and viscera of prey, which in turn
suggests that only large prey could have satisfied their needs.
I'm not sure what this has to do with dinosaurs, but at least I
mentioned the word "theropod" at least once in this posting.