Smilodon populator was a felid mammal discovered in 1939 in Brazil. Despite the colloquial name of “saber-tooth tigers”, this mammal isn’t really related to modern tigers. The name Smilodon was explained to translate to “scalpel tooth” and one look at a reconstructed skeleton will tell you why. The extremely developed canines in the upper jaw of this big cat reached nearly 30 centimeters.
The Big Cat
This animal was the biggest of the Smilodon family. Did we say yet that populator means “the destroyer”? Yes, it was the biggest of the big. It reached 400 kgs and 1.2 meters in height. Did you know that the Smilodon populator’s paws were bigger than the modern Bengal Tiger’s? Some footprints were recovered and measured: 18 centimeters high and 19 centimeters large!
Born in North America
This ancient mammal lived in the plains and grasslands of South America, having had moved there from North America. In this zone, the big cat found no competitors, easily becoming the apex predator. It stalked its prey with no mercy until 10,000 years ago. When Smilodon went extinct, it was due to the decline of its prey and the rapidly changing climate of the world.
What we know of this animal comes from the specimens collected via asphalt lakes that worked like natural traps. These traps preserved many Cenozoic mammals in addition to Smilodon. One of the most known asphalt traps is the “La Brea Tar Pits” in Los Angeles, California.