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Re: Various minor subjects



> > sabre tooth cats seem to have been
> > the main predators on the
> > much larger proboscideans using the same tactics as
> > big theropods
>
> How did you arrive at that conclusion?

First I saw it on TV in a 3-part series on the origins of modern Carnivora.
It was excellent (aside from the fact that "they" [forgot who] presented the
Late Cretaceous _Cimolestes_ as a probable ancestor to Carnivora and
Creodonta, which is AFAIK contested). Sad to say, I don't know when that was
(a few years ago), and what it was called (neither in German nor in the
probable original English version). There "they" investigated a few possible
uses of sabre teeth (such like breaking the necks of prey as today's cats do
with mice; this one was not possible, the teeth would have crumbled to
pieces if the sabre tooth cat tried to bite on an elephant vertebra) and
arrived at the above conclusion -- that like big theropods and, say, sharks
they cut enormous wounds into their prey. I have repeatedly seen this
opinion elsewhere, and it seems most convincing to me.

Barry Cox, R. J. G. Savage, Brian Gardiner, Colin Harrison, Douglas Palmer:
The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs & prehistoric creatures. A
Visual Who's Who of Prehistoric Life, Simon & Schuster 1999
mentions the following:

"Family Felidae
[...]
Cats also developed two chief methods of killing their prey once it had been
caught. The first method was employed by the 'biting cats', including all
the modern types. These species killed their victims by breaking their necks
with one swift, powerful bite from their sharp canine teeth. [Not always
true -- leopards prefer to close the prey's trachea by biting on it, and
cheetahs close their mouth over mouth and nose of the prey; in both cases
the prey suffocates.] The second method was specific to the saber-tooth
cats, all of which are now extinct. These species used their greatly
developed canine teeth to inflict deep wounds on their quarry [?] and would
then simply have waited for it to bleed to death.
[...]
*NAME* _Megantereon_ *TIME* Late Miocene to early Pleistocene
[...]
The development of long canine teeth enabled these powerful predators to
hunt and kill the large, thick-skinned grazing mammals that shared their
habitat. From stalking the prey, a short dash and leap would bring the
animal down [won't work on elephants]. Then neck bites would cause blood
loss and shock, and a strangulation hold [see leopard] would soon kill the
victim [if this was still necessary].
[...]
*NAME* _Smilodon_ *TIME* Late Pleistocene
[...]
The sabres were oval in cross-section [read: laterally compressed] to retain
strength, but also to ensure minimum resistance as they were sunk into the
prey. They were also serrated like steak-knives along their rear edges, so
they pierced the victim's flesh more easily.
        _Smilodon_ probably preyed on large, slow-moving, thick-skinned
animals, such as mammoths and bison. Unable to kill its prey with a quick
bite to the neck, this sabre-tooth cat probably inflicted deep wounds in the
victim's flanks or hindquarters, and then simply waited for it to bleed to
death. [This sentence looks nearly like copied from HP Paul's *Predatory
Dinosaurs of the World*.]
[...]
*NAME* _Homotherium_ *TIME* Early to late Pleistocene
[...]
_Homotherium_ survived until the end of the advance of the ice [?] in the
Pleistocene, about 14,000 years ago. [_H._ and relatives] probably preyed on
mammoths, since in Texas the remains of young mammoths have been preserved
alongside the bones of a family group of [_H._ or a relative]. _Homotherium_
may have become extinct when its prey died out in the northern continents at
the end of the Pleistocene age."

(Both "saber" and "sabre" are in the text, the former on pp. 222 and 223,
the latter on pp. 224 and 225.)

For display, you'd expect canines like those of a baboon -- normal canines,
just lengthened. Saber teeth, on the other hand, look like e. g. _T. rex_
teeth: not only long, but laterally compressed and serrated. These were for
cutting in the first place.

> "Catapultam habeo. Nisi *p*ecuniam omne*m* mihi dabis ad capu*t* tuum
saxum immane mittam."

Uh-oh...