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milodonThe ever popular “sabertooth tiger”, Smilodon is one of the most famous prehistoric predators, and also one of the most formidable.There were at least three species living in both North and South America; the smallest species, Smilodon gracilis, was about the size of a modern day jaguar, while Smilodon fatalis was as big as a lion.However, the South American species Smilodon populator dwarfed both of them, weighing 300 kgs (661lbs) on average and reaching up to 500 kgs (1102lbs) when fully grown!
Smilodon was not as agile as modern day big cats, but it was immensely powerful, with thicker, stronger limbs and neck than modern day cats, and particularly long claws to hold on to prey. Its fangs could reach 30 cms (12″) in length, and were perfect for causing mortal injury to mammoths, ground sloths and possibly any large animal unlucky enough to be ambushed by this super predator.Smilodon went extinct 10,000 years ago, meaning it encountered humans, and probably hunted them once in a while. But perhaps the most amazing thing about Smilodon, is that it is the only prehistoric cat known to have caused the extinction of an entire species. The victim was another formidable predator, the saber-toothed marsupial or marsupial relative known as Thylacosmilus.This beast ruled South America for millions of years, until the sea levels became lower and North America became connected to South America.Smilodon, native to North America, made the journey to South America about 2 million years ago. Thylacosmilus disappeared practically at the same time, outcompeted, and perhaps even, hunted to extinction by the cat.