Smilodon went extinct 10,000 years ago (Photo : Flickr-www78)
When scientists at Vanderbilt University took a closer look at saber tooth tigers' fossils, they expected the predator's teeth to be filed down and worn, an indicator of the supposed famine that killed off the species. Instead, they discovered no such evidence, discounting the prevailing theory accounting for the saber tooth's extinction (via Vanderbilt University News).
Larisa DeSantis explains, "The popular theory for the Megafaunal extinction is that either the changing climate at the end of the last Ice Age or human activity - or some combination of the two - killed off most of the large mammals. In the case of the great cats, we expect that it would have been increasingly difficult for them to find prey, especially if [they] had to compete with humans. We know that when food becomes scarce, carnivores like the great cats tend to consume more of the carcass they kill. If they spend more time chomping on the bones, it should cause detectable changes in the wear patters on their teeth."
The study also accounted for American lions and found identical results: there was no shortage of prey for either of the great cats. Smilodon's canines, its defining trait, measured up to 12 inches. The Saber tooth last stepped foot on the Earth 10,000 years ago when the last of its breed died out.
"Tooth wear patterns suggest that these cats were not desperately consuming entire carcasses, as was expected, and instead seemed to be living the 'good life' during the late Pleistocene, at least up until the very end," continues DeSantis.