The ancient saber-toothed cats might have had the ability to slay rhinos and mammoths, but they had to wait till the age of three for getting their dagger-shaped fangs. Until then, their teeth used to be relatively small, only as big as today’s pussy cats. However, once the teeth arrived, they grew two times faster than that of the lions.
The saber toothed cats, whose scientific name is Smilodon fatalis, used to roam around in South and North America until its extinction around 10,000 years back. They are particularly famous for their overhung canines that could grow up to 18 cm or 7 inches long.
It’s true that the researchers have access to several well-preserved fossils of these animals. However, still not much information could be gathered about the age at which the saber-toothed cats attained the key developmental stage and had their teeth.
A group of researchers representing South Carolina’s Clemson University recently inspected some specimens collected from the famous Los Angeles site La Brea Tar Pits. According to these researchers, these big cats used to grow the majority of their teeth between the age of 14 and 22 months. However, they had to wait more for their famous fangs to grow.
These experts have gathered enough evidence that indicate that the saber toothed cats didn’t get their long teeth until they turned three. This is a big delay when compared to the time for which modern day big cats need to wait for their fangs to arrive. This most likely means that the female saber-toothed cats had to take additional care of the cubs until their predatory teeth arrived.
The scientists have also estimated that once the fangs arrived, they grew by 6 mm every month, which is two times faster than the speed at which a modern-day lion’s teeth grow.
Aleksander Wysocki, the study’s lead author, said that in spite of having canine crowns that were two times longer than that of the modern-day lions, the saber-toothed cats didn’t need twice as much time for developing its canines.
The researchers feel that the complex techniques they used for making all the above-mentioned conclusions can now be used for finding out information on the growth rate of several other extinct animals.