Saber-toothed cats were surprising heavyweights

In the Pleistocene epoch, the big cat Smilodon roamed parts of the Americas, using bladelike teeth and ambush hunting to bring down megafauna.

A version of this story appears in the December 2020 issue of National Geographic magazine.

In the South American savanna of the Pleistocene epoch, the saber-toothed big cat Smilodon survived by ambushing resident megafauna. A fossilized skull from Uruguay shows that some Smilodon were giants. It’s not clear if this cat hunted solo or in a pack—but studies reveal that its bite, bone structure, and limb strength made it a formidable predator.

Tales of the Giant

A fierce predator, Smilodon populator roamed South America during the Pleistocene epoch.