Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
How Do We Know This?
Clues to fossil mammals' diets come from not only teeth, but also
skull shape, amount of space indicated by bones for a stomach and guts, from fossil dung and gut
contents, from lab analysis of oxygen isotopes in bone and teeth, and by looking at diets of
similar modern animals.
Diet & Feeding
- Size of Smilodon teeth and robustness of skeleton indicates prey would have included large mammals such as bison, giant ground sloths, possibly young mammoths and mastodonts, horses, camels
- Oxygen isotopes preserved in tooth enamel show that S. gracilis in Florida ate browsing animals such as large pig-like Platygonus and large-headed llamas, Hemiauchenia. (Feranec 2002)
- Smilodonprobably avoided eating bone or contacting it with its teeth
- Microscopic study of tooth wear finds few grooves and pits in teeth indicating a diet of flesh (Annyonge 1996) (Van Valkenburgh et al 1990)
- Smilodon did not break its knife-like canines any more than it broke its other teeth
- Probably didn't use canines to help restrain prey, in contrast to modern lions (Van Valkenburgh and Hertel 1993)
Valkenburgh et al (1990)
SDZWA Library Links
Fact Sheet Index
Fact sheet index, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Home page, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Email the librarians at firstname.lastname@example.org