Advertisement.

EnchantedLearning.com is a user-supported site.
As a bonus, site members have access to a banner-ad-free version of the site, with print-friendly pages.
Click here to learn more.

ad
(Already a member? Click here.)

Our subscribers' grade-level estimate for this page: 5th - 7th


Enchanted Learning
All About Smilodon
Meaning "Knife Tooth"
Smilodon Quiz to Print-out

Smilodon Printout

Anatomy
Smilodon was the largest saber-toothed cat (or saber-toothed tiger). It was a fierce predator about 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) long and 3 feet (0.9 m) tall. It weighed about 440 lbs (200 kg). It was a bit smaller than a modern-day lion (Panthera leo), but much heavier.

It had relatively short legs and a short, bobbed tail. Its front legs were especially powerful. Its body was adapted for springing onto prey, but it was not a very fast runner.

Its 12-inch-long (30 cm) skull had 2 huge canine teeth. These saber-like teeth were serrated, oval in cross-section, and up to 7 inches (18 cm) long. Many Smilodon fossils have been found with broken canines; a fossil wolf was found with a Smilodon tooth fragment embedded in its skull. Smilodon had powerful jaws that opened to an angle of about 120°. Today's lions can only open their jaws 65°. Smilodon also had very strong jaw and neck muscles that let it stab prey with its deadly teeth.

When Smilodon Lived
Smilodon first appeared about 1.6 million years ago. This ferocious cat went extinct about 11,000 years ago. It lived during the last Ice Age, in which the Earth got much colder than it is now. Ice sheets and glaciers covered much of the land and sea levels fell as sea water froze into polar ice and glaciers. It lived during the Pleistocene Epoch (the early part of the Quaternary Period)

During the last Ice Age, there were many large, interesting mammals, like the saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths, mastodons, and mammoths. These animals have long since gone extinct and are known mostly from fossils, frozen, mummified carcasses, and from ancient cave drawings. The pressures of a major climate change probably led to their extinction; human hunting may have made their situation even worse.

Habitat
Saber-tooth cats lived in grasslands, shrubby areas, and pine forests that supported the plant-eating animals that saber-tooth cats ate.

Diet
Smilodon was a carnivore, a meat-eater. This ferocious hunter may have eaten thick-skinned prey like mastodons (hairy, extinct elephants), horses, and bison. It probably ambushed its prey since its short legs limited its running speed. Its hunting strategy may have been to mortally wound its prey with its saber-like teeth, probably in the belly, and let the victim bleed to death. Smilodon, like most meat-eaters, may also have been a scavenger.

Fossils
Thousands of Smilodon fossils have been found in late Pleistocene tar pits and rocks from North America (S. californicus, which is the California State Fossil, and S. fatalis have been found in California) and South America (S. neogaeus has been found in Argentina).

Classification
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Carnivora (cats, dogs, bears, seals, weasels, etc.)
Family Felidae (cats)
Subfamily Machairodontinae (sabertooth cats)
Genus: Smilodon
Smilodon was named by Plieninger in 1846.

Smilodon and the other saber-toothed tigers are not closely related to modern-day tigers.

Type of Saber-Toothed Cats
These extinct cats are notable for 2 huge canine teeth among other sharp teeth in powerful jaws. They also had very strong jaw and neck muscles that let them stab prey with their deadly teeth. They ate mammoth, rhinoceros, and other thick-skinned animals. There were two major groups of saber-toothed cats: scimitar-toothed and dirk-toothed cats. Smilodon was a dirk-toothed cat. Examples include: Smilodon, the largest, Homotherium, Dinictis, and Machairodus. Fossils have been found in Pliocene to early Pleistocene rocks from both North and South America and other Northern continents.

Smilodon Saber-Toothed Cats Links
Ice age mammals from EnchantedLearning.com
Smilodon fossil from the Illinois State Museum
Saber-toothed cats from the Swedish Museum
Sabre-toothed tigers from the Museum of Paleontology at the Univ. of California, Berkeley





Enchanted Learning®
Over 35,000 Web Pages
Sample Pages for Prospective Subscribers, or click below

Overview of Site
What's New
Enchanted Learning Home
Monthly Activity Calendar
Books to Print
Site Index

K-3
Crafts
K-3 Themes
Little Explorers
Picture dictionary
PreK/K Activities
Rebus Rhymes
Stories
Writing
Cloze Activities
Essay Topics
Newspaper
Writing Activities
Parts of Speech

Fiction
The Test of Time
iPhone app
TapQuiz Maps - free iPhone Geography Game

Biology
Animal Printouts
Biology Label Printouts
Biomes
Birds
Butterflies
Dinosaurs
Food Chain
Human Anatomy
Mammals
Plants
Rainforests
Sharks
Whales
Physical Sciences: K-12
Astronomy
The Earth
Geology
Hurricanes
Landforms
Oceans
Tsunami
Volcano
Languages
Dutch
French
German
Italian
Japanese (Romaji)
Portuguese
Spanish
Swedish
Geography/History
Explorers
Flags
Geography
Inventors
US History

Other Topics
Art and Artists
Calendars
College Finder
Crafts
Graphic Organizers
Label Me! Printouts
Math
Music
Word Wheels

Click to read our Privacy Policy

E-mail


Enchanted Learning Search

Search the Enchanted Learning website for:



Advertisement.



Advertisement.



Advertisement.





Copyright ©1996 EnchantedLearning.com ------ How to cite a web page