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Behavioral Implications of Saber-Toothed Felid Morphology

William J. Gonyea
Paleobiology
Vol. 2, No. 4 (Autumn, 1976), pp. 332-342
Published by: Paleontological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2400172
Page Count: 11
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Behavioral Implications of Saber-Toothed Felid Morphology
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Abstract

The claw equipped forelimbs have been shown to be an important hunting weapon for modern felids. In light of its functional importance, the claw retractile mechanism for modern felids was compared with that of the saber-toothed felids. In this regard, the functional anatomy of claw retraction for saber-toothed felids was found to be the same as that of modern forms. Body proportions of modern felids were also compared with saber-toothed felids and the relationship of their morphology to habitat structure and habitat utilization were studied. It was found that the relative body proportions for Hoplophoneus and Smilodon were similar to modern forest felids (dwellers of high structured dense forest), while Dinictis and Machairodus could probably compete in more open terrain (open woodland, meadow). It is postulated that saber-toothed felids used their claw equipped forelimbs to grasp and hold their prey as do modern felids. In this fashion, the enlarged upper canines could then be used to kill the victim, and this was probably done by a stab to the nape of the neck. It is also thought that Smilodon, like the modern lion, adapted to open habitats by forming prides.

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