06/09/2018 | SCIENTIFIC PROMOTION
Scientists find the footprints of a 30-thousand-year-old saber toothed tiger in Miramar
It is the first time that a research team finds footprints of this extinct animal.
Saber-toothed tiger. Ilustration: Daniel Boh.

Thirty thousand years ago, the plains of the province of Buenos Aires looked very different from now. The meadows did not exist and the plains were covered with dry shrubs like the Patagonian ones. Those plains were full of mammals that are currently extinct including huge and heavy ground sloths, great hoofed animals, like toxodons and macrauchenias, and large glyptodonts that are armadillos’ relatives. Among those giants, the Smilodon or saber-toothed tiger lived.

A group of researchers from the Azara Foundation of the Maimonides University, the Municipal Museum of Punta Hermengo of Miramar, the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences and the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) managed to find Smilodon’s fossil footprints and provide important information. “To find fossil footprints is rare and unusual in any paleontological research. In fact, this is the first time the saber-toothed tiger’ footprints are found”, Dr Federico Agnolín, one of the paleontologists of the study, explains.

The Smilodon was a great feline, whose canine teeth as sabers protruded up to 25 centimeters from the mouth. With those teeth it penetrated thick leather and hard shells of the great mammals that were their prey. Unfortunately, as the experts only know its skeleton, the way of life of the Smilodon is a mystery.

The footprints are 30 thousand years old and were found in Miramar, in the province of Buenos Aires. The Smilodon left those traces as it walked around a small lake. The find was published in Ichnos.

“The footprints show that Smilodon was an animal adapted to walk long distances in those plains of the Pampas Region. Furthermore, experts learnt that the Smilodon’s front limbs were broad and robust, much larger than the hind limbs. This happens in animals that are not good runners so they attack their prey by ambush. The Smilodon would wait, hidden, for a great mammal to appear. At the slightest distraction, the saber-toothed tiger would swoop down on its prey, knock it down so as to grab it with its forelimbs and sink its sharp canine teeth like knives”, Dr. Agnolín described.

Due to this and other important paleontological discoveries, the Municipality of General Alvarado and Azara Foundation are planning to build a new local Museum of Natural Sciences considering the current theme of the Punta Hermengo Municipal Museum.