Texas had its very own saber-toothed tiger

Saber-toothed tiger
Saber-toothed tiger as envisaged by an AI bot! DALLE 3. It is free to use under a Creative Commons license. Click on it to see the original and download that if you wish.
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Here’s a summary of the study titled “The scimitar-cat Homotherium from the submerged continental shelf of the Gulf Coast of Texas”:

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin made an intriguing discovery using an unassuming fossil. The fossil, which initially appeared as a lumpy, rounded rock with exposed teeth, had been submerged and tumbled along the floor of the Gulf of Mexico for thousands of years before washing up on a beach. When X-rayed, the fossil revealed a hidden canine tooth that had not yet erupted from the jaw bone. This tooth provided crucial evidence, allowing the researchers to identify the fossil as belonging to a Homotherium, a genus of large cat that roamed much of the Earth for millions of years.

Homotherium was a robust cat about the size of a jaguar, characterized by its elongated face, lanky front legs, and a sloping back that ended in a bobtail. Its serrated canine teeth were covered by large gum flaps, similar to domestic dogs today. The fossil’s unique feature was that the saber-like canine tooth had not fully grown into its permanent position, likely because the cat hadn’t reached adulthood when it died. This fortunate preservation allowed researchers to study the tooth and expand our understanding of this ancient predator.

Interestingly, this discovery also revealed that Homotherium roamed the now-submerged continental shelf connecting Texas and Florida. While their fossils have been found in several areas of Texas, this specific find provides evidence of their presence in this coastal region during the Late Pleistocene. The Gulf’s continental shelf was once above sea level during glacial periods, approximately between 129,000 and 12,000 years ago.

In summary, this unassuming fossil sheds light on the distribution and behavior of Homotherium, adding to our knowledge of these extinct saber-toothed cats.

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