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The First Sabertooths by Eurwentala The First Sabertooths by Eurwentala
Three sketches of the earliest known group of saber-toothed predators, the beautifully named gorgonopsians.

These Late Permian synapsids seem to have had quite a unique way of eating. While the business end of their teeth does look somewhat like that of later actual saber-toothed cats, they practically lacked useful teeth behind the canines. That is, they had nothing to cut or chew meat with. They probably simply tore large chunks of meat off the carcass and swallowed them like a vulture or something.

The upper left animal is Inostrancevia, the largest known gorgonopsian. With a length of 3,5 meters, it was around the size class of large bears or smallish rhinoceroses, though it had proportionately short legs. It lived in what is now northwestern Russia. Rubidgea, on lower left, was almost as huge. On upper right is a particularly short-snouted Sauroctonus, a smaller animal whose fossils have been found in South Africa and the Volga region in Russia.

It's not known if gorgonopsians had bare skin, some sort of primitive bristle-like fur, scales or some combination of those. As I'm just getting familiar with their body plan, I gave them a very simple, smooth skin. They probably did have something more complex in reality, though.

Drawn after skull references in Mauricio Anton's new book Sabertooth. It's a beautiful and fascinating book. You probably should buy it.
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:iconrazunas:
razunas Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2014
Is there any way i can get this on a shirt?
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014
These things were the ultimate sabretooths IMO-they have weapons and grappling skills, but unlike sabre tooth cats they were very fast runners.

Smilodon was laughably slow when running, an elephant would easily outrun one.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014
Well, while elephants are techinally incapable of running, they can outwalk Usain Bolt too.

That said, do you have a reference for Smilodon top speed? While sabertooth cats were no cheetahs, I find it hard to believe they would have been quite that slow. They have fairly decent limbs, and obviously they did need to outrun their prey to catch it, not just proboscideans but also more agile animals like bison.

As for gorgonopsids, I don't think anyone has ever actually studied their top speeds, but their limbs were still partly splayed like those of reptiles, and they were plantigrades like humans and bears. That doesn't sound exactly like the most agile combination. They were fast for their time, sure, but not exceptionally so compared to later mammals.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014
I don't have a reference but most sources on its hunting behaviour say it was incapable of chasing prey, especially since if the prey turned it couldn't turn due to its short tail.

Not to mention cats have one of the worst stamina of any predator group.

Don't know about gorgonopsid speed either but can't imagine those things being slow, they seem to have a lankier build compared to sabretooths.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014
Well, the poor things would have starved pretty fast if they were incapable of chasing prey. They might not have won awards in marathons, but they sure could run.

Cats are not long-distance runners simply because they do not have to be. Dogs, with their non-retractable claws, immobile front paws long and weak necks don't have the weaponry to kill a big animal fast. They have to run it into exhaustion while slowly biting here and there until the prey stops or collapses. It's not pretty, and it requires a ton of stamina.

Cats, on the other hand (not counting cheetah), have taken another route into hypercarnivory. They are great at very fast acceleration - the cat is in full speed before you even realize it moves. The approach is to catch the prey in seconds, grab it tightly with their meat hook claws and kill it right away. While they can't run for hours, I'd argue it's a more elegant solution. It's all about trade-offs. You can't be great at everything at the same time.

From the latest scientific book on sabertooth cats, Mauricio Antón's Sabertooth: "In summary, many of the morphological features of derived felid sabertooths point to a combination of increasingly efficient terrestrial locomotion compared to that of feline cats, and greater strength, necessary in order to subdue struggling prey. [...] For instance, homotherins developed a more fleet, cursorially adapted body plan, and the smilodontids developed a more hyper-robust, wrestling physique."

And there's a part describing a hypothetical hunting event of Smilodon, which includes "The cat explodes from hiding. She covers the distance to her prey in a few, lightning-swift bounds. Her heavily muscled limbs are not very good for sustained running, but they are capable of quite sudden acceleration from a static start, and her heels permit a good bounding gallop."

Smilodon did not only hunt baby mammoths and bison, but also plenty of horses, and litopterns in South America. So, necessarily it did have enough speed to catch a horse on a short distance.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014
The point is catching prey by surprise, but smilodonts are built for wrestling, not sprinting.
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2014
Oh no, they are built exactly for sprinting. Just not for marathons. ;)

In case you thought heavily muscled, plantigrade animals with short legs are slow, here's a bear outrunning a deer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqGiLM…
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2014
Yes but cats have much poorer stamina.

And in terms of things, gorgonopsids could also run fast since you are arguing heavily built animals can run fast (and those things had a lighter build)
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:iconeurwentala:
Eurwentala Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2014
Yeah, sure gorgonopsids were fast in the same sense sabertooths and bears and galloping crocs are fast. And that would have been terrifying to see in life. But they were not "extremely fast" in comparison to modern mammals.
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(2 Replies)
:iconartwalker-67:
Artwalker-67 Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
These are excellent! I've often imagined the eyes of many therapsid carnos being like those on ur Inostran. I've even done them that way myself once. Get an inter-library loan of Robert Broom's old "Mammal-like Reptiles of South Africa"! It's still a great reference! Only one library in the country has a copy I think! The University of Oregon! Thats were I got it from each time I checked it out.
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