Suzanne Grandt in Animals, Environment, History Assistant General Counsel (Attorney IV) • State Bar of California Jun 3, 2020 · 1 min read · ~100

Extinct Animal Spotlight: Saber-Toothed Tiger

Extinct Animal Spotlight: Saber-Toothed Tiger

When most people think about the extinction of an animal species, the ones that have been most highlighted in the news are the ones that come to mind. There are, however, untold numbers of specials that go extinct that will never even be heard of. One of the reasons is that we don’t even really know all of the species that exist today. We can make an assumption, based on a rate of extinction hypothesis, that roughly 10,000 species go extinct every year. 

The reasons for extinction used to be solely nature-based. Before man came to town, the only things that could wipe out an entire species were Acts of God or other species. Climate change also played a role. In modern times, however, there are many reasons why species go extinct. Pollution and deforestation take away habitats or make them unsustainable for life. Hunters and poachers thin herds to point of making them the last of their kind. Our intrusion is killing off species at a rate of thousands of times worse than the natural order of extinction.

The saber-toothed tiger is an example of a species that is no longer with us today. It died out after the last ice age. All in all, 15 different species of large mammals went extinct in North America during this period. One theory states that climate change affected vegetation to such a degree that its prey started to die out. There are, however, theories that disprove that because of the analysis of tooth fossils. If their food supply was being shortened, then there would have been evidence of more wear and tear on the tiger’s teeth due to the ingestion of entire animal carcasses of their prey.

Formally living in North and South America, it hunted large animals and ate grassy vegetation. Scientists believed it to be a social creature who hunted in packs, unlike today’s cats who are relative lone hunters by nature. The main theories about the event known today as the Quaternary extinction focus mostly around climate change and the rapid, repeated cooling and thawing of sea levels. Within a few thousand years, humans started to resemble a more modern form and hunted many of the megafaunas such as wooly mammoths and saber-toothed cats. The truth is that this big cat was simply no match, in spite of weighing around 440 lbs, measuring around five feet long, and possessing giant canine teeth. 

Learn more about extinct animals at SuzanneGrandt.org.