On the Hunt

Lone Hunter or Social Animal?

A question arises after discussing how the sabre-tooth cats hunted: do they hunt alone or amongst other sabre-tooths? Today there are a few arguments that support the idea of the sabre-tooth as a social animal. For example, a collection manager at the George C. Museum in Los Angeles has a paleopathology collection of more than 5,000 bones. However, these sabre-tooth remains are damaged. The bones contain bite marks (some sabre-tooth in origin), bumps on the tibia and femur bones, (due to over-exertion), and show infections that may have persisted for several months. These devastating injuries which were displayed, must have crippled the sabre-tooth, leaving it limping or perhaps dragging its injured limbs along the ground. How could an animal with such extensive injuries survive? Infection seen in these mashed and broken bones suggest that the animal survived long after the original injury. How is this possible? How did it eat? Surely it could not have been a solitary hunter, otherwise, it would have died (Mestel 1993).

These debilitating wounds show signs of rehabilatation, which suggests that the most crippled animal survived after its injury. Due to this process of healing, it is believed that the sabre-tooth may have been cared for by other sabre-tooth cats or at least allowed to feed near others.

Other evidence which suggests that the cat was a social animal, is that many of the bones of sabre-tooths have sabre-tooth holes or marks in them. This suggests that times together were not always peaceful. Fighting over food, a mate, or for dominance of the group, most likely led to the sabre-toothed inflicted injuries (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/carnivora/larson/smilodon.html).