Study: Starvation Didn’t Cause Extinction of Saber-Tooth Cats

A new fossil study is shedding light on the extinction of saber-tooth animals. Most researchers believe these animals died off due to a lack of food. It was believed a drastic climate change and competition for food with humans cut the food supply of saber-tooth animals, but a new study shows otherwise.

Answers found in teeth

Saber-tooth cats didn't die from starvation.
Saber-tooth cats didn’t die from starvation.

According to LiveScience, researchers looked at teeth collected from the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles. The teeth, some of which were 35,000 years old, gave scientists an insight into the diet of the saber-tooth cats.

If extinction was caused by lack of prey, researchers would have found broken and damaged teeth as the animals ate more of their prey, including bones, to stay alive. However, that’s not what researchers found.

“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,” said researcher Larisa DeSantis, a vertebrate paleontologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

“We expected extinct carnivores to show evidence for extreme bone processing, based on the high number of broken teeth determined from prior research. Finding the complete opposite pattern was shocking!” DeSantis said.

A shift in thinking

These findings are some of the first to suggest saber-tooth animals were not killed as a result of starvation.

A lot of buzz is building around this new fossil evidence.
A lot of buzz is building around this new fossil evidence.

“The net result of our study is to raise questions about the reigning hypothesis that ‘tough times’ during the late Pleistocene contributed to the gradual extinction of large carnivores,” DeSantis said.

“While we can not determine the exact cause of their demise, it is unlikely that the extinction of these cats was a result of gradually declining prey.”

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