In particular, scientists from the team of Danish scientist Ross Barnett (University of Copenhagen) studied the genetic material of the Homotherium latidens or homoterium, sometimes also nicknamed scimitar tooth cat for their canine teeth slightly shorter than those of many members of this group of extinct felids.
Traditionally it was suspected by the structure of the bones that the homoterio ran after the prey instead of waiting in an ambush. The new study sheds light in this direction, as Barnett and his colleagues found evidence for that idea in genetic clues extracted from a bone of 47,000 years old of the thigh of the animal discovered in Yukon, Canada.
This theory is further reinforced by paying more attention to the bones of the forelimbs of these felids. And it is that saber-toothed cats have large and strong bones in that area of the body to grab prey, according to the study.
The homoterium DNA also reveals that their ancestors split from other groups of cats about 22.5 million years ago and includes genes associated with daytime activity, as well as adaptations in the respiratory and circulatory systems related to running.
Barnett and his colleagues found genes in the feline’s DNA associated with social behavior. These hint that could have lived in groups, like lions, and not independently, like leopards.
The great genetic diversity of the sample further suggests that homoterium was much more common than previously thought. “Given the extremely low number of homoterium fossils, this was a surprise,” says Barnett. This may mean that many unidentified fossil bones in museum collections could actually belong to homoteries.