Machairodus (Greek for "knife tooth"); pronounced mah-CARE-oh-duss
Woodlands of North America, Africa and Eurasia
Late Miocene-Pleistocene (10 million to 2 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 5 feet long and a few hundred pounds
Thick limbs; large canines
You can tell a lot about a prehistoric cat by the shape of its limbs. Clearly, the squat, muscular fore and hind legs of Machairodus weren't suited for high-speed chases, leading paleontologists to infer that this saber-toothed cat leaped on its prey suddenly from high trees, wrestled it to the ground, punctured its jugular with its large, sharp canines, then withdrew to a safe distance while its unfortunate victim bled to death. Machairodus is represented in the fossil record by numerous individual species, which varied widely in size and probably fur pattern (stripes, spots, etc.).