3.0 - 0.5 MYA
Homotherium crenatidens, Homotherium ethiopicum, Homotherium hadarensis, Homotherium latidens, Homotherium nestianus, Homotherium nihowansis, Homotherium serum, Homotherium ultimum
As the number of species listed indicates, Homotherium fossils have been found in great numbers. The following description is a generalization of the genus. Most have been found in Europe or Asia, although some have been found in North America. Most were about the size of lions. Homotherium are generally distinguished by their unique body shape. Note in the drawing that the long neck and front legs together with a muscular forequarters make this animal look more like a hyena than a cat. An explanation of this and the coat color pictured as given by Turner in his book The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives will be given later. Homotherium is also distinguished by slender legs and teeth somewhat like those of the sabertooths except smaller.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE GENUS
|The body shape of Homotherium leads to the question of function. Turner believes it served either as adaptation for long distance hunting (110-112) or for the hunting of large prey such as young mammoths (163-166) and the white coloring may have been an adaptation in species that lived further north.|
The white coloring in northern species would parallel modern wolves. The most northern species, the arctic wolves, have a white coat as opposed to more southern species. For this theory of a northern species, I have depicted the animal with the smaller ears and larger more padded paws found in modern snow leopards. These adaptations would also aid in a colder climate.
It was not made clear whether or not these cats hunted or scavenged elephants. I have read of incidents where big cats hunt elephants. It has been observed in Savuti that lions both scavenged elephant carcasses as well as hunted small calves that were separated from the pride. This, however, is the only area I have read of where lions will hunt elephants. The hunting may have been because of the harsh environment the lions lived in. It is not to hard to imagine Homotherium species hunting elephants in similarly harsh conditions. Despite the risk, capturing such a prey would obviously have rewards. The cats would have a large amount of meat, and it could sustain them for a long period if they could keep it from other predators.
Because of the risk involved, I believe Homotherium might have lived in small prides. Numbers would make it easier to catch such prey as well as defend it. In addition, the amount of meat from such a hunt would be able to sustain more than one animal. This is one of the elements necessary in group living.
Sources: "The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives" Alan Turner. Columbia University Press. 1997
"The Lions of Savuti : Hunting with the Moon" Dereck and Beverly Joubert. The national Geographic Society. 1997
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