Repost: Cookie-Cutter Cat Not as Cute as the Name Sounds
[This is a repost of an essay I originally published October 27, 2011.]
The prehistoric cookie-cutter cat was not as cute as the name suggests. That’s especially true when you consider the fossil felid’s scientific label — Xenosmilus. That roughly translates to “alien knife.” The name certainly fits. Xenosmilus was not a sleek, gracile beast like modern cheetahs, leopards, or tigers. This was a heavily muscled sabertooth which may have looked like a cat adapted into the shape of a bear. Even compared to other long-fanged cats of prehistory, Xenosmilus was a weird one.
The unique nature of Xenosmilus was not immediately clear when the cat was discovered. During the early 1980s a group of quarry workers