Guest Reblog: 🎃 The Cookie-Cutter Cat 🎃

We’re not talking Christmas cookies here.

There’s dressing up for Halloween —

Technically, this is a September video, but I’d love to show up at the door in that costume! (Yes, I’ve embedded it before; it is adorable, especially with kids at the end.)

— and then there is sheer terror, as science writer Brian Switek explained in 2011:

…fossils suggest the feline was built like a bear and tore away large chunks of flesh from the flanks or abdomens of fleeing prey until the animal died of shock and blood loss.

“The prehistoric cookie-cutter cat was not as cute as the name suggests. That’s especially true when you consider the fossil felid’s scientific label — Xenosmilus. That roughly translates to “alien knife”, and the name certainly fits. Xenosmilus was not a sleek, gracile beast like modern cheetahs, leopards, or tigers. This was a heavily muscled sabertooth which may have looked like a cat adapted into the shape of a bear. Even compared to other long-fanged cats of prehistory, Xenosmilus was a weird one…

…Up until the discovery of Xenosmilus, the saber-toothed cats of the past 23 million years or so have been categorized by paleontologists into one of two categories on the basis of their dental cutlery and body shape. The dirk-toothed cats — such as the famous Smilodon…[and] Scimitar-tooths such as Homotherium [that] had shorter, broader canine teeth and were generally more slender, long-legged predators…Xenosmilus doesn’t fit into either category…”

Full article

More information:

  • The Florida Museum
  • Wikipedia
  • 1999 article about the find. As far as I know, Dr. Martin’s question — whether Smilodon only became dominant after Xenosmilus died out — has not yet been answered.

Featured image: Mauricio Antón , via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl.

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