How It Works

Why did cats evolve sabre teeth?

Sabre teeth are a great example of convergent evolution: many species evolved this same trait independently around this time. So what was the benefit of these deadly weapons?

The apex predators of this era were equipped with disproportionately huge fangs because, as simple as it sounds, the animals they hunted were much bigger.

Modern big cats like the African lion throttle their prey by crushing the windpipe – a fine tactic to finish a dainty gazelle, but if you’re attacking beasts significantly beyond your weight category – like the woolly mammoth – hanging onto their throat until they suffocated wasn’t an option.

Smilodon used their dagger-like canines like an assassin, surprising its intended meal by stabbing at the throat or ripping its soft belly, then retreating and allowing the victim to weaken before moving in for the kill.