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Dinofelis spp.
Topic Started: Jan 8 2012, 02:37 PM (3,679 Views)
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Dinofelis spp.

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Fossil range: Early Pliocene–Middle Pleistocene

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Tribe: Metailurini
Genus: Dinofelis

Dinofelis ("terrible cat") is a genus of saber-toothed cats belonging to the tribe Metailurini. They were widespread in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America at least 5 million to about 1.2 million years ago (Early Pliocene to Early Pleistocene). Fossils very similar to Dinofelis from Lothagam range back to the Late Miocene, some 8 million years ago.

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Description and ecology
In size they were between a modern leopard and a lion, most being about the size of a jaguar (70 cm tall and up to 120 kg), medium-sized but powerful cats that possessed two prominent sabre teeth. The front limbs were particularly robust compared to the modern cats (even the jaguar). This stout body may implicate a preference for dense or mixed habitats although it may also have been similar to the extant jaguar with its range from forest to open range including wetland.

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Body mass
Two specimens were examined by Serge Legendre and Roth for body mass The first specimen was estimated to have a weight of 31.4 kg (69 lb). The second was estimated to have a weight of 87.8 kg (190 lb).

The canine teeth of Dinofelis are flattened and only moderately long compared to the true sabertooths. Therefore Dinofelis is sometimes known as a "false saber-tooth" cat because, instead of true saber-teeth, these cats had what appears to be a cross between long, flat saber-teeth and the cone-shaped teeth of the modern-day felines. While the lower canines are robust, the cheek teeth are not nearly as robust as in the lion and other modern felids.

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Dinofelis fossils and bones have been found in South Africa along with those of the baboons that it possibly killed. Bones from several specimens of Dinofelis and baboons were found in a natural trap. Dinofelis may have entered the place to feed on trapped animals or may have simply wandered into a location and was not able to escape again. Several fossils sites from South Africa seem to show that Dinofelis may have hunted and killed Australopithecus afarensis since they harbored fossilized remains of Dinofelis, hominids, and other large contemporary animals of the period. Also, since Dinofelis remains have been found near Paranthropus fossil skulls in South Africa, a few of which have peculiar twin holes in their crania matching the Dinofelis upper canines's spacing almost exactly, it is possible that Dinofelis was preying on robust hominids as well.

It is thought that the gradual disappearance of the forests in which Dinofelis hunted may have contributed to its extinction at the start of the ice age.

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Dinofelis hunted animals including, mammoth calves, young and old mastodons, homo habilis (an ancestor of modern humans) and other animals.

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Other undescribed species may exist.

  • Dinofelis aronoki (East Africa) - recently split from D. barlowi
  • Dinofelis barlowi (South Africa)
  • Dinofelis cristata (China) - includes D. abeli
  • Dinofelis darti (South Africa)
  • Dinofelis diastemata (Europe)
  • Dinofelis paleoonca (North America)
  • Dinofelis petteri (East Africa)
  • Dinofelis piveteaui (South Africa)
  • Dinofelis sp. "Langebaanweg"
  • Dinofelis sp. "Lothagam"

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Edited by Taipan, Aug 2 2012, 07:42 PM.
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