Nav: Home

Saber-toothed cats with oral injuries ate softer foods

November 05, 2018

Saber-toothed cats with oral injuries ate softer foods than their uninjured counterparts, who may have provided injured cats with soft scraps.

Indianapolis, IN, USA: Saber-toothed cats, the large felid predators that once roamed Southern California, may have eaten softer foods after suffering oral injuries, according to a new study. Microscopic damage patterns on teeth from fossilized cats show the injured predators transitioned to seeking softer prey, like flesh instead of bone, which healthy cats may have provided for them, according to the study.

Saber-toothed cats likely suffered injuries while felling large prey, according to the study's lead author, vertebrate paleontologist Larisa DeSantis from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee.

The cat's prey animals were larger 10,000 to 50,000 years ago, DeSantis says, and could have easily broken jaws or kicked teeth completely free from the socket, leading to subsequent and sometimes lethal infection. It's unlikely that cats with such severe injuries could take down large animals and consume their soft, fleshy meat, she says, or even survive long after the injury.

"The fact that they're eating food that really shouldn't be available to them unless they're being provided for, and that they're living with these injuries for prolonged periods of time suggests they're being provisioned food by other cats," she says. DeSantis will share her findings on Monday, 5 November, at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Microdamage patterns recorded in tooth enamel, like mountains and valleys in a topographic map, tell the history of an animal's diet. These patterns allow researchers to glean information like whether a predator was scavenging on bone or eating tougher foods like flesh. Anthropologists have pioneered the same technique to explore the diets of early human ancestors.

DeSantis and her colleagues compared the dental microwear patterns of injured versus uninjured cats, thanks to a large pathology collection available at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum in Los Angeles, California. Many of the fossils show signs of prolonged infection and bone growth associated with healing -- signs that the animals survived after what would have been fatal injuries if not part of a social group.

"What's really exciting about this," DeSantis says, "is that you see pretty clear evidence that they're surviving for longer. That in itself gives you evidence of potential care within the social group."

These findings further support the idea that saber-toothed cats were social animals, being an exception to the rule of non-sociality in the lion's share of felid species. Saber-toothed cats consumed both flesh from fresh kills and utilized carcasses.

"There is a lot of evidence that Smilodon was a social and gregarious animal," says Christopher Shaw, Collections Manager Emeritus at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum and coauthor on the study, "which implies that they hunted together and fed at group kills. This study adds another provocative aspect to the sociability within this species and, for the first time, addresses new evidence regarding food options and feeding behaviors for injured members of the social group."

DeSantis's interest in this work began in an earlier study, where she found that man-eating lions may have turned to human prey, in part, because of similar oral injuries. Preserved teeth of confirmed, man-eating lions stored at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, showed patterns of wear that were similar to captive zoo lions, which ate soft foods consisting mostly of beef and horse meat.
-end-
Author: Larissa R.G. DeSantis, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Vanderbilt University, larisa.desantis@vanderbilt.edu

Monday, 5 Nov., 3:30 p.m., https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2018AM/webprogram/Paper322567.html

"Sabertooth cats with toothaches: Impacts of dental injuries on feeding behavior in late Pleistocene smilodon fatalis (mammalia, felidae) from Rancho La Brea (Los Angeles, California)"

The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with members from academia, government, and industry in more than 100 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth-science education.

Geological Society of America

Related Teeth Articles:

Brush your teeth to protect the heart
Brushing teeth frequently is linked with lower risks of atrial fibrillation and heart failure, according to a study published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Piranha fish swap old teeth for new simultaneously
With the help of new technologies, a team led by the University of Washington has confirmed that piranhas lose and regrow all the teeth on one side of their face multiple times throughout their lives.
What wolves' teeth reveal about their lives
UCLA biologist discovers what wolves' broken teeth reveal about their lives.
These pink sea urchins have teeth that sharpen themselves
Sea urchins have five teeth, each held by a separate jaw in a circular arrangement at the center of their spiked, spherical bodies.
The secret strength of gnashing teeth
There's a method to finite element modeling for materials microarchitecture to make super strong glass.
No teeth cleaning needed: Crocodiles shed old teeth, grow new ones
Having one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom, crocodiles must be able to bite hard to eat their food such as turtles, wildebeest and other large prey.
FEFU scientists likely found way to grow new teeth for patients
A group of histologists and dentists from School of Biomedicine, Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), teamed up with Russian and Japanese colleagues and found cells that are probably responsible for the formation of human dental tissue.
Why deep-sea dragonfish have transparent teeth
Off the coast of San Diego, 500 meters under the sea, pencil-sized sea monsters grin pitch-black smiles because their mouths are filled with transparent teeth.
Brush your teeth -- postpone Alzheimer's
Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway have discovered a clear connection between oral health and Alzheimer´s disease.
New study calls for supervision orders to have 'more teeth'
This study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is the first national study of all children placed on supervision orders between 2010/11 and 2016/17 -- a total of 19,296 children.
More Teeth News and Teeth Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.