A team of scientists from the University of Malaga, Birmingham and California, Los Angeles, has studied the 'morsel of death'In these super predators, the saber tooth tigers, from the computational simulation in three dimensions, showing structural and biomechanical differences in the skulls of two different species of saber-toothed felids.
A finding that confirms what specialists had been suspicious for decades, but without finding biomechanical evidence in this regard.
Until now, it was already recognized two ecological types of this species in relation to your canine: saber model and scimitar model. The results of this research, published in the journal Current Biology, represent a further step, its distinction for its hunting strategy.
Through the use of biomechanical simulation techniques Based on computerized axial tomography and cranial and cervical microanatomical studies, these researchers have shown that the way in which saber-toothed tigers stabbed megaherbivores with their canines and its ability to grapple with prey it was very different.
The saber model, presents a long canine with fine "serrations" on its edges or without "serrations" and is to which the iconic species Smilodon fatalis belongs.
The second, known as the scimitar model, which present the species of the genus Homotherium, is characterized, however, for a shorter and wider canine on the basis that the ‘saber model’, but with extensive 'sawing' on its edges.
Differences in their morphology that this group of researchers have compared in both models, Smilodon fatalis Y Homotherium serum, along with a hypercarnivore series current events such as the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), the lion (Panthera leo) and the African painted dog (Lycaon pictus), demonstrating that saber-toothed predators hunted their prey in different environments as a result of the severe competition that existed between large carnivores throughout the Pleistocene.
Saber tooth tigers: different weapons to kill their prey
The study led by paleontologist Borja Figueirido, in which Alejandro Pérez Ramos, both from the University of Malaga, has also participated, provides for the first time biomechanical evidence that the stabbing of the Smilodon model was much more directional and precise, probably in the jugular or in the trachea of the prey.
According to experts, this suggests that they had very little ability to hold and grapple by using the skull, a strategy carried out by the current lion whose canine is conical and more equipped for it.
But nevertheless, Homotherium had intermediate biomechanical capabilities between the current lion and the Smilodon model, as this work reveals that his stabbing was much less directional and precise, but had much more ability to grapple with the prey through the use of his skull.
A finding that indicates that, probably, its ‘sawing’ could be used to cut the dam to the minimum movementpossibly also on his neck.
These differences in stabbing mode of both saber tooth models are also related to their running or ambush capabilities.
While Smildon's limbs were sturdy and they had highly developed retractable nails, especially those of the thumb of the forelimbs, Homotherium limbs were more graceful and her nails were semi-retractable.
Smilodon was an animal that used ambush as a hunting mode, using his nails to hold the prey with his forelimbs while delivering the precise and directional stab with his overdeveloped canines.
But nevertheless, Homotherium used a faster and longer run, for which it is advantageous not to have retractable nails, but at the same time, this reduced the ability to struggle with the extremities when hunting. Its skull played a crucial role in the grappling and holding of the prey to compensate for the loss of retractable nails.
Hunters from different environments
This research indicates that the 'arsenal' of saber teeth was broader than previously known previously, which shows a high degree of ecological specialization among these carnivores, Smilodon being a hunter of more closed environments and Homotherium of more open ones.
These two strategies could indicate some kind of ecological segregation between these two forms of large carnivores that coexisted in North America during the Pleistocene, a time of severe climatic fluctuations that have been proposed as a cause of high competition in these ecosystems.
Stephan Lautenschlager from the University of Birmingham and Blaire Van Valkenburgh, professor of paleontology at the University of California, Los Angeles, also participated in the work.
Borja Figueirido, Stephan Lautenschlager, Alejandro Pérez-Ramos, Blaire Van Valkenburgh. "Distinct Predatory Behaviors in Scimitar- and Dirk-Toothed Sabertooth Cats" Current Biology, Vol. 28, Issue 20, p3260–3266.e3Published online: October 4, 2018.
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