Paleontologists have discovered two new species of saber tooth cats which roamed South Africa more than 5 million years ago.
Skull and tooth remains of two unknown species of ancient predators, along with fossils of two previously discovered species of saber-toothed cats, have emerged at a dig site eight miles off South Africa’s Atlantic coast called Langebaanweg ‘E’ Quarry. THE paper who announced the fossils on Thursday in the newspaper iScience calls Langebaanweg ‘E’ Quarry “one of the most important fossil communities” for understanding what happened during a major transition in our planet’s history, when lush rainforests disappeared and, in their wake, came grasslands, woodlands and a cooler world.
Today’s big cats are equipped with adaptations to the places where they live. The variety of fossils at Langebaanweg suggests “the presence of a mosaic environment” as the world was in transition, the paper’s authors wrote.
A changing planet
Five million years ago, the Earth Miocene era was coming to an end. The planet was cooling, and the lush wetlands that covered most of the planet were being replaced by forests and savannahs. The melting of continental crusts and the rapid rise of certain mountain ranges such as the Himalayas have contributed to making the Earth much colder and have favored these new environments.
As the land divided into different ecosystems, animals went extinct or developed adaptations. “The taxonomy, evolution and diversity of this fauna are therefore very important for an accurate reconstruction of the paleoenvironment,” the authors write in the article.
saber tooth cats
In animal classification, all cats belong to a family of carnivorous mammals called Felidae. Those alive today, from lions to domestic cats, are further classified in the subfamily Felinae. The ancient predators that have disappeared, including the four described in the article, belong to the subfamily Machairodontinae.
Fossils in new study belong to known species Dark Yoshia T Adeilosmilus aff. kabirplus “nova species” – or newly discovered species – Lokotunjailurus chinsamyae (whose members had never been discovered in the region) and Dinofelis werdelini.
Unlike today’s cats, which have conical canines, Machairodontinae cats had what the Florida Museum describe as “flatter, more knife-like” teeth. This is why Machairodontinae are commonly referred to as saber-toothed cats.
According Live Sciencewhich also covered recent discoveries in a article published on Thursday, the four species from the Langebaanweg quarry were not closely related to each other. Although they lived around the same area at the same time, they “probably occupied very different ecological niches”. According to the article, L. chinsamyae And A.kabir were tall and more adapted to speed, a clue that they lived in open grassland environments. The other two species were smaller and more agile, and would probably have thrived in forests.
Herbivorous animals living at that time also left fossils in the Langebaanweg. According to the article, these herbivorous fossils suggest that saber-toothed cats lived in “a Mediterranean climate.”
The Machairodontinae first appeared about 12 million years ago and became extinct less than 10,000 years ago. They lived on several continents, including North America and Europe in addition to Africa. Their presence on Earth overlapped with that of humans.