The Facts

  • Genus/ Species: Smilodon
  • Conservation Status: Extinct
  • Location: The plains of North and South America during the Ice Age.


The Scoop

Ice Age Hunter

Smilodons are also known as saber toothed tigers, though they were not tigers at all. They were cat-like creatures, with long teeth that were as sharp as swords or sabers- hence their name. These teeth were serrated, and up to 7 inches long. Smilodons first made their appearance about 1.6 million years ago, during the Ice Ages. They stalked the icy plains, grasslands, shrubby areas and pine forests, hunting their prey.  They were not very fast runners, but their bodies were made for hunting, with powerful front legs as well as very strong jaws and neck muscles. 

The smilodon was a little smaller than the modern day lion, but much heavier. It was a meat eater, and its diet included the hairy, extinct elephant-like creatures called mastodons, as well as horses and bison.  Smilodon would also eat dead animals. 

The last smilodon became extinct about 10,000 years ago. One reason for this may be that when the Ice Age receded, the climate became warmer, and the smilodon could not adjust to this change.   It is also believed that as our ancestors became better hunters, they hunted down the smilodon relentlessly, bringing down the numbers of this cat like creature. Thousands of smilodon fossils have been found in the tar pits of North America, and these fossils have given us many insights about this unusual creature that has disappeared from our planet. 


Did You Know?

  • The biggest smilodon tooth that has been found measured an amazing 12 inches.
  • Smilodons could open their jaws very wide, but they would not use much force chomping for fear of damaging their teeth.
  • The smilodon’s teeth were not only as sharp as a knife; they were also powerful enough to crack a rock. 
  • Smilodons lived and hunted in packs.


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