Saber-toothed Cat Upper Skull Fossil
"Metailurus major

Name: Metailurus major

Phylum Chordata; Class Mammalia; Order Carnivora; Family Felidae; Subfamily Machairodontinae; Tribe: Metailurini

Geological Time: Late Miocene (6 to 9 Mya)

Size: Skull: 190 mm long, 100 mm high, 125 mm across. With canines 50 mm in length (curve measurement) Matrix: 110 mm long, 75 mm across, 75 mm tall

Fossil Site: Guanghe Formation , Xihe, Gansu Province, China

Sabertooth tiger fossil skullThis skull belongs to a member of the Machairodontinae, or true saber-toothed cats known as Metailurus major. While modern cats have conical canines, the Machairodonts (meaning sabre-teeth), had laterally flattened blade-like canines. They were presumably too fragile to use to stab prey, but probably these cats went for the soft tissue of the throat to effect their kills. This taxon was originally described in 1924 from material discovered in China, much like the specimen shown here. Metailurus was about the size of a large modern-day Puma. Its stocky build and heavy forearms are suggestive of an arboreal habit, hunting in forested areas. Loss of the second premolar is an advanced trait, because earlier cats had larger numbers of teeth than their descendants.

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