15 MYA- 2 MYA
Machairodus africanus, Machairodus aphanistus, Machairodus giganteus, Machairodus oradensis, Machairodus colorandensis
Machairodus was a genus of large sabertooths. Different species varied in size, and have been found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. It is not agreed upon whether or not all named species are valid. It is agreed that there are two basic types of Machairodus: an evolved and a more primitive type. The more primitive types, such as the European M. aphanistus, more closely resemble the typical sabertooths. (That is, the appear somewhat more like Smilodon for example) The more evolved type show specialized traits closer to the hyena-like Homotherium, and is most likely ancestral to this genus. These species have serrated teeth and elongated forelimbs; the forelimb structure most resembling Homotherium.
1.The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives. Alan Turner. Columbia University Press, New York. 1997
Because of the variation in ranges of the Machairodus species, there was most likely a great variation in coloring and behavior. For example, African species may have had lighter more brownish colored coats like that of a lion. Since forested areas were patchy, they most likely would have lived in the savanna areas with the large grazing herds, using the same stalking and rushing technique of hunting used by lions and leopards. Because of the size of some species, they may not have climbed trees as leopards would have for protection or hiding prey.
European species may have had thicker coats for a cooler climate. Some may have had spotted or striped coats for hunting in forested areas. Behavior of European and North American species may also have varied. Forrest dwelling species may have hunted much like a modern jaguar or leopard, relying more on stalking prey and then pouncing. Species living on open grassland may have relied more on running down prey. In fact, the more evolved varieties in Eurasia and North America have the elongated forelimbs of Homotherium which were built for long distance travel and endurance. Another possible lifestyle for these more evolved cats may have been a combination hunting / scavenging existence like that of a hyena. This may also be used to explain a possible reason for the extreme specialization leading to Homotherium. Perhaps competition with hyenas (relatives of whom lived in Europe during this time) led to this specialization in long distance travel for opportunistic hunting and scavenging.
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