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Discovering animals that feed on plants

New research published in the journal Peerj shows that not all saber-toothed animals are prey as previously thought.

Smilodon. Photo: Primeval.

The Smilodon or the saber-toothed tiger is one of the most notorious prehistoric predators of the Cat family. Larger in size than today’s largest tigers, they use their power to knock down their prey before finishing it off by sticking giant fangs nearly 18 cm long into their throats.

According to paleontologist Larisa DeSantis at Vanderbilt University in the US, Smilodon’s bite causes prey to die from blood loss, not asphyxiation like modern big cats prey. This tactic allowed them to finish off larger prey like camels and American horses during the last ice age.

Due to possessing powerful lethal weapons, prehistoric saber-toothed beasts like the Smilodon are now believed to be predators. However, a recent study by paleontologists from the UK, the US and Spain has shown that some species of saber-toothed mammals can eat scavengers and plants.

Thylacosmilus is a representative of scavengers. Photo: Wikiwand.

Thylacosmilus is an example. This prehistoric creature related to the kangaroo and bare-nosed koalas also had giant fangs like the Smilodon, but they were not used to finish off prey. New fossil analysis showed that Thylacosmilus was more like a scavenger. Its long fangs were probably used to bite off the flesh, in order to make the most of the leftover food.

Another finding in the saber-toothed mammal Tiarajudens eccentricus also surprised the team. This pig-turtle-like creature is the oldest sword-toothed animal known to have appeared on Earth 260 million years ago. Despite having large canines, the structure of the other teeth indicates that Tiarajudens are plant-eating.

Graphic simulation of the herbivore Tiarajudens eccentricus. Photo: National Geographic.

This discovery surprised scientists about the versatility of sword teeth. In addition to killing prey and slashing carcasses in carnivores, they are also used by plant-eating species such as the Tiarajudens as tools to attract mates, fight enemies, or defend themselves against predators. bait.

(According to National Geographic)

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