Fossils reveal cats with teeth that can pierce an opponent’s skull


Sometimes teeth have large canines like deadly weapons to destroy competing cat skins.

It has been suggested that Smilodon cats use their giant canines to remove their prey, perhaps by squeezing their prey (SN: 3/30/19, p.20). However, some researchers say that the dagger, which can grow up to 28 cm in the largest species, is too thin and brittle for fractures without breaking.

A new analysis of the two skulls of the Smilodon population, which has kept bearded cats and moved to South America today, denies this idea. Large holes in the upper part of the skull fossil match the size and shape of the dogs from sharp-toothed cats, the researchers reported online in May at Rendus Palevol. Such injuries are sometimes seen in living cat skulls, such as leopards, jaguar, and cheetahs, the authors write.

“Filled dog teeth are strong enough to penetrate bones and are a hunting weapon,” said Pameonto, pioneer of the natural history museum in Buenos Aires. Skull wounds are likely to arise in clashes when “fighting for territories, access to women or food”.

Skulls pierced from the late Pleistocene 11,000 to 126,000 years ago were found in northeast Argentina. An amateur collector found one in 1992, and co-author Javier Ocho, a paleontologist at the Florentino Amigino Regional Museum in Cordoba, found another. Maybe people who have close ties to S. fatalists in North America will behave like this, said Kimmeno.

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