The American Scimitar Cat

The American Scimitar
(Homotherium serum)

The scimitar cat is the lesser known of the two ‘sabre-toothed’ cats of ice age North America. This extinct cat was a formidable hunter and evidence suggests it was the major predator of mammoths during its time.

Statistics
Height: 1.1m (3.5ft) at the shoulder, Weight: 150-250 kg (330-550lb)

Physical Description
Scimitar cats were about the size of a modern lion but had longer, more slender limbs. Their most distinctive feature was their sabre-like teeth a feature that they shared with their American cousins, sabre-toothed cats. Several key features distinguish scimitar cats from sabre-tooths. The canine teeth of scimitar cats were shorter and more slender than those of the sabre-tooth and were finely serrated, making them powerful slicing tools. The scimitar cat had a somewhat unusual build with comparatively long front legs, a sloping back and shorter hind legs.

Distribution
Scimitar cats were widespread in North America, from the far north in Alaska to the south in Texas.

Habitat
Found in various habitats from the open steppe tundra of the north to the wooded grasslands and scrub of the south.

Diet
Scimitars were carnivores that hunted large mammals.

Behaviour
There is some remarkable evidence that scimitar cats were major predators of mammoths and mastodons. In Friesenhahn Cave in Texas the remains of more than 30 individuals, including cubs, have been found in association with the remains of some 300-400 juvenile mammoths.

Conservation status
Extinct from approximately 12,500 years ago.

Notes
The American scimitar cat was one of several ‘sabre-tooth’ cats belonging to the genus Homotherium which evolved around 5 million years ago. Different species of Homotherium were found in North America, Eurasia and Africa.

 

Closest relative
Modern cats.

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