Data Interpretations

Figure.11  Elongated canines.
Sabre Debate

Since the discovery of the first sabre-tooth cat, it has long been debated what purpose these elongated sabres served. At first, researchers believed that the purpose of such long teeth was to stab their prey, or perhaps grab and hold onto their prey. This theory has now been discarded due to the fact that if these sabres were used to hold onto prey, the sabres would have been easily broken.

Today, the latest theory suggests that the large canines were used in conjunction with powerful muscles to puncture the skin of its prey. Its smaller teeth (premolar and anterior molars) were used as a shearing edge ( This theory is supported by the fact that rarely are broken sabres found in the fossil record. In most specimens the sabres are recovered intact with their skulls. This tells us that they could not have been used for stabbing or gripping their prey, otherwise, large broken sabres would be common. Moreover, studies show that the cat could not have used its sabres for stabbing because the jaw would have gotten in the way of the cats stabbing stroke (Mestel 1993).