Scimitar-toothed cats also lived in Mexico, study shows

Described as a 'Machairodus coloradensis,' the scimitar-toothed cat was thought to be endemic to the U.S.

Scimitar-toothed cats also lived in Mexico, study shows
A powerful predator, the scimitar-toothed cat is thought to have lived nearly 4 million years ago, during the Pliocene period - Photo: Taken from CONABIO's official Twitter page
English 17/04/2019 13:51 Newsroom Mexico City UNAM Actualizada 13:51
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In 1996, a group of paleontologists from Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), Óscar Carranza and Gerardo Álvarez, found a jaw and a set of sharp teeth in Guanajuato that belonged to an ancient feline identified as a Machairodus coloradensis. This animal, known as the scimitar-toothed cat or scimitar cat, is commonly found in the United States and was significantly large, about 1.2 m at the shoulder, according to skeletal and life reconstructions.

Damián Ruiz Ramoni, a Venezuelan paleontologist from UNAM’s Geology Institute and his colleagues Ascanio Rincón and Marisol Montellano renamed the species and published their conclusions in the Historical Biology scientific journal.

“It was described as a Machairodus coloradensis, thought to be endemic to the United States. However, when we took a closer look at it, we found some similarities with animals coming from Eurasia and Russia, which is why we decided to change its name to Amphima chairodus alvarizi. Its genus, Amphimachairodus, has been found in Africa, Spain, Asia, and now in Guanajuato, in central Mexico,” stated Ruiz Ramoni.

The remains have been part of the collection of UNAM’s Paleontology Museum since 1996. “I came to Mexico for a postdoctoral stay to study a phenomenon called the Great American Interchange, which refers to a moment in which land and freshwater fauna migrated from North America to South America and vice versa, as the volcanic Isthmus of Panama rose up from the sea floor and bridged the formerly separated continents,” he explained.

A powerful predator, the scimitar-toothed cat is thought to have lived nearly 4 million years ago, during the Pliocene period. As of today, the entire family of saber-toothed cats is extinct.

Though the scimitar-toothed cat was smaller than a lion, it was a very powerful creature, capable of preying on large mammals. However, the creature was unable to adapt to radical changes in its ecosystem, which led to its extinction.

“Its diet basically consisted of large sloths, bisons, horses, and camelids, but when this megafauna became extinct during the Quaternary period, due to its incapacity to adapt and eat harder foods like some of its feline peers, the scimitar-toothed cat became extinct,” explained Ruiz Ramoni.

It had very sharp and flat teeth, with a saw-like edge. “This is the first scimitar-toothed species identified In Mexico. It lived in open spaces and grasslands and had a very specialized hunting method,” he concluded.


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