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Extinct Saber-toothed Cat (Smilodon fatalis) Fact Sheet: Diseases & Pathology

Extinct Saber-toothed Cat (Smilodon fatalis)

How Do We Know This?

Abnormalities in fossils bones may show
evidence of arthritis, cancer, nutritional stress, fractures and more.

Diseases & Pathology

  • Fused vertebrae from arthritis (Duckler 19997)
  • Ossification between vertebrae with several possible causes - seen in La Brea specimens (Bjorkengren et al 1987)
    • Trauma and resulting infection
    • Inflammatory disease (ankylosing spondylitis)
    • Skeletal-wide bone overgrowths (hyperostosis)
  • Bone damage from impact of teeth of other sabertooth cats (Bjorkengren et al 1987)
    • Occasionally fractured teeth found imbedded in bone of victim
  • Broken legs, dislocated hips, bone infections, back injuries (Merriman and Stock 1932)
  • Thirty percent of 1,000 skulls examined show erosion of the parietal bone where largest jaw muscles attached (Duckler 1997)
    • Long-term mechanical stress could cause microfractures, weakened bone, and bone thinning
    • Other carnivores show fewer and shallower depression than did Smilodon bones

Page Citations

Annyonge (1996)
Bjorkengren et al (1987)
Duckler (1997)

SDZWA Library Links