The saber-toothed tiger, Smilodon fatalis, inhabited North and South America from about 1.6 million to 10,000 years ago, sharing its roaming grounds with a prehistoric cat called the American lion.
Remains of 19 saber-toothed cats and 13 American lions from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles were studied by Wendy Binder, a biologist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Julie Meachen-Samuels, a biologist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, Durham, N.C.
The male American lions were found to be significantly larger than the females, while male and female saber-toothed cats were indistinguishable in size, Meachen-Samuels said in a release Friday.
Size differences between the sexes tend to be most significant in species where male aggression is more intense, the researchers said.
The size differences found in the La Brea cats suggests a male American lion may have monopolized a harem of females while saber-toothed cats might have been more equal, with multiple males and females living together.