Photo of the Day #32: Megantereon

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The quintessential sabercat may be Smilodon, but it’s importance in terms of our own evolution pales in comparison to another sabercat that hominins shared the landscape with in Africa and Europe: Megantereon. Various hypotheses have been put forward about the relationship of our early ancestors and the extinct cats that they probably often encountered, ranging from providing hominins with a surplus of meat (the logic being that the large canines would have prevented the sabercats from eating much of their kills) to being predators of hominins to even forming a symbiotic relationship with the robust australopithecines where they acted almost like hunting dogs. Indeed, while some of the ideas I just mentioned may be a little far out, there is much we still don’t know about the relationship of our ancient relatives to extinct big predators, although the dispersal of Megantereon into Europe may have had some influence on the dispersal of Homo erectus.

As for the photo itself, it was taken at the AMNH and I was surprised at how well it turned out. I opted for black & white, and by ramping up the contrast on the camera and framing the picture right I was able to make the background seem much darker than the skull. What interests me most about the skull itself, though, is how large the nasal opening is in Megantereon and why that should be so.