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Re: Smilodon teeth (was DROMAEOSAUR "SICKLE" CLAWS)

Spent a bunch of years working on this critter. Smilodont upper canine 
roots extend well up into a heavy skull, terminating above the orbits if 
I remember correctly. They are flattened blades with serrated margins, 
particularly on the back side.The carnassials look hefty enough to me to 
shear meat. The machairodont's forequarters are massive compared to a 
modern lion or tiger. The bones are larger and more robust than seen in 
the large La Brean Lion. In short, this felid is built like a tank. Most 
cats use the claws to hold onto pray or to drag it down. The average 
kitty can handle up to 5 times it's own weight that way ( check out 
Gonyea's article back in the mid - seventies ). Tigers have little 
difficulty pulling down 2,000 pound gaur bulls using their claw - 
equipped fore limbs.It seems likely to me that cats like Smilodon and 
Eusmilus dragged down and held their prey with their front claws, 
positioning them for precise strikes into soft tissue, vein, and artery ( 
neck and throat ).In Smilodon, the head could be brought well back on the 
neck and the lower jaw dropped down against the chest clearing the points 
of the canines. The mastoids were awesome.The machairodont could survive 
without its canines, however. Many skulls evidence broken teeth with 
polished surfaces.


Stephen Faust                   smfaust@edisto.cofc.edu

On Sun, 7 Sep 1997, Dann Pigdon wrote:

> 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
> incision.
>       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.
> -- 
> ____________________________________________________
>       Dann Pigdon
>       Melbourne, Australia
>       http://www.geocities.com/capecanaveral/4459/
> ____________________________________________________