Smilodon fatalis

  • It was a fierce predator which roamed over the forests, brushy plains, margins of woodlands of North, Central, and South Americas
  • Itwent extinct 13,000 years ago

Physical Description

  • Its 30 cm skull had 2 sabre-like 15 cm long canine teeth which were serrated on both edges and oval in cross-section.
  • It had relatively short legs and a short, bobbed tail.
  • The front and back limbs are about the same length, and its front legs were especially powerful and its body was adapted for springing onto prey.
  • It was an ambush predator; not built for long-distance running.
  • It preyed on large mammals such as bison, giant ground sloths, young mammoths and mastodons, horses, camels.
  • Males and females are same based on size.
  • It had strong retractable claws.


It was a bit smaller than a modern-day lion, but much heavier.

Body length – 1.5 – 2.2 m

Height at shoulder – 1.1 m

Tail length – 35 cm

Weight – 160 – 300 kg.

Interesting facts

  • About 3,000 fossilized cats have been discovered from the La Brea tar pits in California and itis the State Fossil of California.
  • It had very powerful jaw and neck muscles that can stab the prey with its deadly maxillary canine sabre teeth.
  • Smilodon jaws could be opened to an angle of about 120 degrees, almost twice the gape of modern cats.
  • Flexible hyoid bone supporting the tongue similar to modern lion’s may have allowed Smilodonto roar
  • Brain of Smilodon had furrows like all modern cats, indicating similar hearing, eyesight and limb coordination.

Causes for extinction

  • Climate change and human hunting were thought to be the main causes.
  • Smilodon survived so long as its prey had vegetation.