Spotted: Saber-Toothed Species!
Scientists have identified a species of saber-toothed mammal that lived about 42 million years ago.
© Erick Toussaint, San Diego Natural History Museum
Scientists think Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae may have looked something like this. A fossil of its jawbone is shown in the box.
Sink your teeth into this: Scientists have discovered a new species of saber-toothed mammal that lived about 42 million years ago! The animal, which scientists named Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae, lived in forests where San Diego, California, is located now.
Known for their long, tusk-like upper teeth, saber-toothed animals were hypercarnivores, meaning their diet was mostly meat. These mammals had the tools to kill. In addition to their enormous fangs, some of their other teeth could slice right into muscle!
Scientists believe that saber-toothed mammals first appeared several million years after the dinosaurs died out. Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae was one of the earliest. Unlike many other saber-toothed mammals, this one was fairly small. It was about the size of a bobcat (about 25 pounds, or 11.3 kilograms).
While Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae probably looked a bit like a cat, scientists say it wasn’t closely related to today’s big cats, like lions and tigers. And it was very different from another, more famous saber-toothed mammal, Smilodon. Smilodon (sometimes mistakenly called a saber-toothed tiger) was a distant cousin to today’s cats. It was much larger than Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae, with even larger teeth.
You don’t have to worry about coming across those massive fangs, though. The last saber-toothed animals went extinct about 8,000 years ago. But if you have a cat, then there’s a hypercarnivore in your house!