Navigation Links
Scientists say sabercat bit like a pussycat

In public imagination, the sabre-toothed cat Smilodon ranks alongside Tyrannosaurus rex as the ultimate killing machine. Powerfully built, with upper canines like knives, Smilodon was a fearsome predator of Ice-Age America's lost giants.

For more than 150 years, scientists have debated how this iconic predator used its ferocious fangs to kill its prey. Now a new Australian study, published today in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, hopes to lay the arguments to rest. And the results will put in dent in Smilodon's reputation.

Scientists from the University of New South Wales and University of Newcastle have used a computer-based technique called Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to test the bite force and feeding mechanics of the fearsome predator.

FEA, normally used in the analysis of trains, planes and cars, allowed the team to "reverse engineer" designs to find out what sort of forces a structure like a sabrecat skull was able to handle.

"Skulls are much more complex then most man-made structures, and to apply the technique to a fossil big cat required some tricks engineers usually have to handle," says the University of Newcastle's Colin McHenry, lead author on the paper.

"Historically there have been a number of interpretations about how Smilodon killed," says UNSW palaeontologist Dr Steve Wroe. "Early researchers thought it had a weak bite. More recently, people have suggested that the bite was strong."

Using the skull of a modern-day lion for comparison, the team determined that Smilodon had a relatively weak bite - about one third as powerful as a lion of similar size. "For all its reputation, Smilodon had a wimpy bite" says Dr Wroe. "It bit like a moggy."

In a range of "digital crash-tests", the team found that under most conditions, the sabre-tooth skull performed very poorly compared to that of the lion. This would have seriously limited the big toothed fossil cat cat to a very specific range of killing behaviours.

Although its bite was weak, this is not to imply Smilodon was not was a formidable predator. "Anything but," says Dr Wroe. "Smilodon was an awesome beast -- and what it lacked in bite force it more than made up for elsewhere."

"The sabrecat had an immensely powerful body; perfect for wrestling large prey to the ground, and our models show that it needed to do this before trying a bite, "explains Mr McHenry. "Killing was more likely applied to the prey's throat, because it is easier to restrain the prey this way. Once the bite was done the prey would have died almost instantly."

Dr Wroe describes the lion as a "better all rounder" in the hunting stakes. Smilodon was massively over-engineered for the purposes of taking small prey, but a ruthlessly efficient hunter of big game."

The team is now applying their techniques to inform medical research involving dentists, surgeons and safety scientists.


Contact: Mary O'Malley
University of New South Wales

Related biology technology :

1. UW computer scientists fighting computer virus "Cold War"
2. Scientists find way to make human collagen in lab
3. Wisconsin scientists to be recognized for innovative biofuel technology
4. UW-Madison scientists to mimic nature for newest cancer drugs
5. UW scientists study strange material with communications potential
6. Scientists find nanotech method for examining cells
7. UW space scientists use Keck telescope to study wild weather of Uranus
8. UW computer scientists tout achievements and explain industry shortcomings
9. Facing shortage of U.S. scientists, UW wants to boost math enrollment
10. UW-Madison scientists find a key to cell division
11. TIP/UW Scientists Provide Mars Rover Commentary
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... 2015 , ... A long-standing partnership between the Academy of ... formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. , AMA Executive Director ... Minter and Capt. Albert Glenn Tuesday, November 24, 2015, at AMA Headquarters in ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , November 25, 2015 ... Report is a professional and in-depth study on ...      (Logo: ) , ... the industry including definitions, classifications, applications and industry ... for the international markets including development trends, competitive ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Asia-Pacific (APAC) ... research organisation (CRO) market. The trend of outsourcing ... lower margins but higher volume share for the ... and scale, however, margins in the CRO industry ... (CRO) Market ( ), finds that ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 Cepheid (NASDAQ: CPHD ) today ... following conference, and invited investors to participate via webcast. ...      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern Time ...      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern Time ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:11/9/2015)... 09, 2015 ... the "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics Market ... --> ) has announced the ... Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report to their ... ( ) has announced the addition ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions , an innovative ... of clinical research, is pleased to announce that it ... (MHTA) as one of only three finalists for a ... Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor ... superior technology innovation and leadership. iMedNet™ ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 29, 2015  Connected health pioneer, Joseph C. ... of technology-enabled health and wellness, and the business opportunities ... The Internet of Healthy Things . Long ... even existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, Partners ... delivery, moving care from the hospital or doctor,s office ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):