Study: Sabertooth cats were social animals

Nov. 4, 2008 at 2:08 PM

LONDON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- British and U.S. scientists say they've determined the extinct sabertooth cat was likely a social animal, living and hunting much like today's lions.

Researchers at the Zoological Society of London and UCLA said the sabertooth cat (Smilodon fatalis) is one of the world's most iconic extinct mammal species, famous for its extremely long canine teeth that were up to 7 inches long and extended below the lower jaw.

"The extinct sabertooth cat … has been something of an enigma, with almost nothing known of its behavior," said Chris Carbone, a senior research fellow at the Zoological Society of London and lead author of the study. "This research allowed us to use the behavior of its present-day relatives to conclude that this extinct cat was more likely to roam in formidable gangs than as a secretive, solitary animal."

The scientists concluded the sabertooth cat was social by comparing numbers of present-day carnivores competing for kills in Africa with those of mainly extinct species found in a North American fossil deposit.

The research that included scientists from South Africa's Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria appears in the journal Biology Letters.

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