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Megantereon (Wikimedia Commons)


Megantereon (Greek for "giant beast"); pronounced MEG-an-TER-ee-on


Plains of North America, Africa and Eurasia

Historical Epoch:

Late Oligocene-Pleistocene (10 million to 500,000 years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 4 feet long and 100 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Powerful front limbs; long, sharp canines


About Megantereon:

Because its front canines weren't quite as powerful and well-developed as those of the true saber-toothed cats, most notably Smilodon, Megantereon is sometimes referred to as a "dirk-toothed" cat. However you want to describe it, this was one of the most successful predators of its day, which made its living by stalking the giant megafauna of the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs. Using its powerful front limbs, Megantereon would wrestle these beasts to the ground, inflict fatal wounds with its knife-like teeth, then withdraw to a safe distance as its unfortunate prey bled to death. Occasionally, this prehistoric cat snacked on other fare: a skull of the early hominid Australopithecus has been found bearing two Megantereon-sized puncture wounds.

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