The Reason Why Saber-Toothed Tigers Went Extinct
Saber-tooth tigers. Cool, right?Well, maybe. At first, it kind of seems like it would bepretty crazy if saber-toothed tigers stillroamed the American wilderness. But just imagine for a second if you had toworry about giant fanged cats while you werecamping. Forget putting your food in a bear lockeryou’d have to put your whole tent in one ofthose things. Yeah, saber-toothed tigers were cool, buttheir extinction pretty much made the wholecamping and outdoor recreation industry possible. But that begs the question: Why did they goextinct?It seems incredible to think that somethingas badass as a giant cat with teeth the sizeof your hand could ever be taken down by theforces of nature, but that’s apparently whathappened. Just not the way we thought. For a long time, it was believed that saber-toothtigers died out because food was scarce. But scientists have now looked at the fossilizedteeth from 15 saber-toothed tigers and foundthat they lacked the kind of wear patternyou’d expect to see in an animal that isn’tgetting enough to eat. According to the Huffington Post, a starvingcat would likely gnaw every kill it founddown to the bone, so its teeth would showa micro-wear pattern similar to what you seein hyenas, which are efficient scavengersthat typically consume every part of a carcassfrom hide to skeleton. “Look at you guys. No wonder we’re dangling at the bottom ofthe food chain!”That wear pattern is missing from sabertoothtiger teeth, though, so the big cats’ extinctionprobably wasn’t due to a scarcity of prey. So what gives?Well, research by the Australian Centre forAncient DNA suggests that it was probablya combination of a warming climate and humanactivity. Interestingly, humans and saber-toothed tigersco-existed for at least a thousand years,and it was only when the climate started torapidly warm that populations of megafaunaoversized animals that include the saber-toothtiger began to decline. After that warming event, much of the world’smegafauna were extinct within a century. But why?It’s impossible to say for sure, but the bigwild card seems to have been you guessed it!humanity. Studies have shown that the migration patternsof humans and our now-extinct cousins likeNeanderthals and Denisovans closely correlatewith the decline of large mammals all overthe world. As our ancestors and other human species migratednorth to Europe and Asia, the average sizeof land mammals dropped by roughly half. The same thing happened when humans got toAustralia, only on a larger scale Australianland mammals got about 10 times smaller. And in America, the average size of land mammalsdropped from “mega” to “minuscule. “Before human arrival, the average Americanland mammal weighed around 216 pounds. After early humans showed up and started wavingtheir spears around, that dropped to an averageof 17 pounds. It’s difficult to tell how much climate changemay have also contributed. But according to The Atlantic, the declineof large mammals might have had somethinglike a snowball effect, since, whenever there’san extinction event, it tends to irreversiblyalter the ecosystems where those animals live. So once humans and hot weather combined tokill off a few key species, the rest may havetumbled like dominoes. But since the study of sabre-tooth tiger teethdoesn’t actually show any evidence that theloss of large prey animals directly led totheir extinction, we’re left to guess. One theory?Well, if large mammals were no longer aroundto eat, it’s possible that sabre-tooth tigersmay have turned to smaller mammals for foodincluding humans. And if that happened, chances are humanityreacted by doing what it does best: killingevery possible threat immediately. So did humans hunt sabre-tooth tigers intoextinction?For now, it’s just another unsubstantiatedtheory and unless some brave soul inventsa time machine and heads to the past to findout in person, it may just have to stay thatway. Sorry, sabre-tooth tigers!You were cool, and we’re really sorry if wehad to kill you. Check out one of our newest videos right here!Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favoritestuff are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit thebell so you don’t miss a single one.