Thursday, 5 January 2012

Mighty arms helped extinct cats keep a mouthful of fanged teeth

Sabertooth cats and other super-toothy predators apparently possessed mighty arms that they used to help them kill.  The beefy arms would have served to pin down prey and protect the ferocious-looking teeth of the feline predators, which were actually fragile enough to fracture, scientists find.  The finding also may hold for other knife-fanged prehistoric carnivores; long before sabertooth cats evolved, a number of now-extinct toothy hunters once roamed the Earth. These included the nimravids, or false sabertooth cats, which lived from 7 million to 42 million years ago alongside a sister group to cats known as barbourofelids, which lived from 5 million to 20 million years ago.  "If you saw one of these animals you'd probably think it was a cat, but true cats didn't evolve until millions of years later," said researcher Julie Meachen-Samuels, a paleontologist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, N.C.

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