Saber-Toothed Cat

Part of Hall of Primitive Mammals.

Closeup of the fossil mount of the saber-toothed cat, Smilodon, focuses on its extremely long canines. D. Finnin/© AMNH

Numerous remains of the Smilodon, or saber-toothed cat, have been found at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Scientists are unsure why this site attracted so many saber-toothed cats, but some suggest these cats may have been scavengers rather than hunters.

Smilodon had enormous canines, or "sabers," which protruded inches below its chin line when its jaws were closed. In order to stab its prey, the saber-toothed cat had to open its lower jaw to a 95-degree gape so as to clear the points of the sabers.