Why did the Saber Tooth Tiger Go Extinct – How did the Saber Tooth Tiger Became Extinct

Saber Tooth Tiger along with Woolly Mammoths, American lions and other giant animals used to live in the American grasslands during the Pleistocene Epoch (23 million to 10,000 years ago). These group of animals are known as the “Megafauna”. At the end of Pleistocene Epoch (last ice age) these “Megafauna” became extinct. This extinction is known as the Quaternary extinction in Palaeontology. Saber tooth tiger due to its unique appearance has been of very much interest among the people. Palaeontologist have been studying them for years and have been working out on various theories that suggests reasons for Why did the Saber Tooth Tiger go Extinct. We have gathered all the theories here to give you an overview of all the possible reasons of saber tooth tiger extinction.

saber tooth tiger habitat


Why did the Saber Tooth Tiger Go Extinct

It has been observed that big cats tend to consume the complete animal they hunt, when food is scarce. This behavior has significant effects on the wear patterns on their teeth as they chomp the bones for a longer period of time. Based on this behavior of big cats, palaeontologist studied the teeth and formulated the theory on the why did the Saber Tooth Tiger go extinct.

1. Theory of Tough Times 

  • The most popular theory that suggests the reasons for the Saber Tooth Tiger extinction talks about the tough times (during the late Pleistocene period) due to climate change, human hunting and scarcity of food.
  • This theory was suggested after research made on the teeth of saber tooth tiger, American lions, coyotes and dire wolves fossils found in La Brea tar pits in southern California. It was observed that broken teeth were three times more than other predators of the same time. This observation suggested that these animals were facing difficulty finding prey and were consuming their whole prey which resulted in three times broken teeth.
  • These studies led scientist to formulate the theory of tough times suspecting climate change and human competition as the main reasons for their extinction.
  • Huge changes in climate occurred at the end of the last ice age and human hunting also increased, this caused the extinction of most of the large mammals.
  • Lets discuss each of the three major reasons for why did the saber tooth tiger become extinct:
    • Climate Change

      At the time of saber tooth tiger extinction, the ice age was ending. Glaciers were melting, changes in seasons and rainfall occurred, causing disturbance in the local ecosystems. Rise in temperature may have effected the living of most of these megafauna and something extraordinary might also have happened only during this ice age that might have caused the extinction. Another esoteric theory with no proof suggests that climate changes may have caused diseases that may have led to the saber tooth tiger extinction.

    • Food Supply

      Saber tooth tiger mainly hunted ground sloths, deer and bison which were at the verge of extinction at the end of last ice age due to climate change. The population of Bison fell significantly when due to climate change large grasslands turned into forests. In addition to this when humans reached North America at the end of last ice age, they also hunted bison for food and thus caused food competition for saber tooth tiger. This decrease in food supply has been suggested as one of the major cause of extinction of sabe tooth tiger.

    • Human Hunting Saber Tooth Tiger

      The theory also suggests that at the time of extinction of saber tooth tiger, humans made huge progress in hunting techniques. These techniques were advance enough to kill a large predator like saber tooth tiger. Humans might not have killed saber tooth tiger for food but for protection and sport.
      Some palaeontologists do not accept this theory and argue that though hunting skills were advanced yet, humans did not have the resources and will to cause the extinction of saber tooth tiger.

Why did the Saber Tooth Tiger Go Extinct

2. Most Recent Findings on Saber Tooth Tiger Extinction

Recently conducted studies on the fossils of saber tooth tiger suggests that saber tooth tiger extinction didn’t happened due to lack of food. These studies are supported by fossil evidence and contradict the previous theory for how did the Saber Tooth Tiger became extinct.

  • In the recent study of the microscopic wear patterns on the teeth of 15 American lions and 15 saber tooth tiger (found in La Brea tar pits in southern California), it was found that there was enough food available for saber tooth tiger even during the period near to their extinction 12,000 years ago. These recent findings do refute the previous theory but are still unable to provide answers for how did the Saber Tooth Tiger became extinct.
  • These studies employed a new method called dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA). A confocal microscope is used to produce a 3D image of the tooth surface, which is then analyzed for wear patterns. Eating of red meat produces small parallel scratches on the teeth while chomping of bones produces deeper pits.
  • The study further revealed that the saber tooth tiger teeth wear pattern matches to that of present day African lion, which do some bone crushing when eating its prey. On the other hand the wear patterns on the teeth of American lion matches with those of present day cheetah, which avoids bone crushing while eating its prey.
  • Previous study of teeth suggested that saber tooth tigers avoided bone crushing.
  • The researchers of this study suggests that the high rate of damage observed in teeth during the previous studies is more likely due to capture of prey.
  • This wear patterns on the teeth were also cross examined with teeth of saber tooth tigers from different time periods between 35,000 to 11,500 years ago. The results suggested no evidence that there was any increase in the “utilization” of carcasses.
      • they were not eating the complete carcasses of their prey as suggested by previous theory.
      • it seemed that availability of food was not the issue even near to the period when they got extinct.This recent study raises serious questions on the previous theory on the extinction of saber tooth tigers and provides evidence that it is highly unlikely that the extinction was caused due to lack of food as their teeth suggests a complete different story:

3. Why did the Saber Tooth Tiger Go Extinct Video


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