DeKalb, Ill. -- It's safe to say Northern Illinois University Biological Sciences Professor Virginia Naples has a fascination with cats. She keeps two tabbies at her Hampshire, Ill. home. She also has focused her research on cats that were anything but cute and cuddly -- the prehistoric saber-tooths.
Naples and two colleagues -- Larry Martin of the University of Kansas and fossil hunter John Babiarz -- are editors of a new book on saber-tooth cats titled: "The Other Saber-tooths: Scimitar-tooth Cats of the Western Hemisphere" (Johns Hopkins University Press).
The book, richly illustrated and featuring the latest information on scimitar-tooth cats, was based on nearly 10 years of research. In addition to the writings and research of the three editors, the book also includes contributions from other noted paleontologists.
"The most significant book ever produced on saber-tooth cats was published all the way back in 1932," Naples says. "Our book brings readers up to speed on new research and discoveries. Additionally, it's the first comprehensive volume ever published on the scimitar-tooth cats."
Paleontologists generally have identified two kinds of extinct North American and South American saber-tooth: dirk-tooth cats and scimitar-tooth cats. Naples' book introduces a third type, the Cookie-Cutter Cat, exemplified by the new cat described for the first time here, Xenosmilus hodsonae.
The better known dirk-tooth cat, Smilodon, roamed the Rancho La Brea tar seeps in California. In fact, hundreds were caught in the tar pits, and many of their complete skeletons have been recovered. The dirk-tooth cat had elongated, finely serrated canines and a short-legged, muscular body resembling that of a bear. Because of its heavy build, the cat could not run very fast for more than a short distance and probably ambushed its prey.
The scimitar-tooth cats -- many species of which have been found in North America, Europe
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Northern Illinois University