Smilodon fatalis

Life History

Smilodon fatalis hunting bison    Smilodon fatalis was a carnivorous predator during the Pleistocene epoch (Coltrain et al. 2004). Due to their robust physique, they were believed to have preyed on large, slow moving animals (Coltrain et al. 2004). Animals that were within the hunting range of S. fatalis included but were not limited to : the "yesterday's" camel, bison, pronghorns, horses, ground sloths, mammoths and mastodons (Coltrain et al. 2004). Ruminant animals such as the bison and camels were more likely to be hunted by S. fatalis (Coltrain et al. 2004). To understand how these prey were captured, we have to understand whether or not Smilodon were social. In this case, S. fatalis probably was a social species inorder to compete with other carnivores of the time (Carbone et al. 2009).

Intraspecific Interactions
    Smilodon fatalis was said to have been a social and solitary species. Most arguments for either case are rigorous but there is more research supporting the idea that they were a social species. According to the fossil records from Rancho La Brea, many Smilodon bodies were found together (Carbone et al. 2009). This suggests that Smilodon hunted in groups as well as having a family structure. Nonetheless, it should be noted that they most likely were sociable with one another. The social interaction between Smilodon are apparent even in times of need.

    Many remains of the saber-tooth cat show signs of injuries to bones and areas of muscle attachment that would take weeks to months to heal, which would prevent a Smilodon from actively hunting. In solitary creatures, these wounds would mean that the animal could not hunt and would starve to death; however, most of the remains with injuries show that these injuries healed or were in the process of healing (Prehistoric Wildlife 2011). Accordingly, the Smilodon must have gotten its food from somewhere while it recovered. The most common accepted hypothesis is that these prehistoric cats hunted in packs; thus, the food was shared among the members of the group including the injured (Prehistoric Wildlife 2011).

    The La Brea tar pits also contained multiple sites where young Smilodon were present in the presence of adult Smilodon and the prey (Carbone et al. 2009). This suggests that adolescent Smilodon accompanied the adults during hunts to learn the strategies and instincts needed for survival (Carbone et al. 2009). Maternal care was also a plausible inference since the young could not hunt until after their teeth erupted (Turner 1997). Scientists also inferred that after teeth development, the mother would bring live prey for the young to practice the instinct of biting (Turner 1997). Overall, the family structure was thought to be quite similar to modern day cats.

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