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Temporal range: Late Miocene–Middle Pleistocene
M. cultridens skeleton
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Machairodontinae
Tribe: Smilodontini
Genus: Megantereon
Croizet & Jobert, 1828
Type species
Megantereon cultridens
(Cuvier, 1824)
Other species
  • M. adroveri Pons Moya, 1987
  • M. ekidoit Werdelin & Lewis, 2000
  • M. falconeri Pomel, 1853
  • M. hesperus Gazin, 1933
  • M. microta Zhu et al., 2015
  • M. vakshensis Sharapov, 1986
  • M. whitei Broom, 1937
  • M. praecox

M. cultridens

  • M. megantereon Croizet & Jobert, 1828
  • Felis megantereon Bravard, 1828
  • M. macroscelis Pomel, 1853

M. falconeri

  • M. nihowanensis Tielhard de Chardin & Piveteau, 1930
  • M. inexpectatus Tielhard de Chardin, 1939
  • M. lantianensis Hu & Qi, 1978

M. whitei

  • M. gracile Broom, 1948
  • M. eurynodon Ewer, 1955

Megantereon is an extinct genus of prehistoric machairodontine saber-toothed cat that lived in North America, Eurasia, and Africa. It is closely related to and possibly the ancestor of Smilodon.


The true number of species may be less than the full list of described species reproduced below:[2]

  • Megantereon cultridens (Cuvier, 1824) (type species)
  • Megantereon adroveri Pons Moya, 1987
  • Megantereon ekidoit Werdelin & Lewis, 2000
  • Megantereon falconeri Pomel, 1853
  • Megantereon hesperus (Gazin, 1933)
  • Megantereon microta Zhu et al., 2015[3]
  • Megantereon vakhshensis Sarapov, 1986[4]
  • Megantereon whitei Broom, 1937

In 2022, it was proposed, alongside a description of more material, that more Asian species than just M. falconeri: M. nihowanensis, M. inexpectatus (syn. M. lantianensis), and M. megantereon (syn. M. microta) existed. The authors disregarded M. falconeri, however, because of the poor record for that species, and also noted that two specimens – a skull in the Natural History Museum of London and a skull in a museum in Dublin – likely represented a new species (which had been previously noted by other authors).[5][6]

Fossil fragments have been found in Africa, Eurasia and North America.[7] The oldest confirmed samples of Megantereon are known from the Pliocene of North America and are dated to about 4.5 million years. Samples from Africa are dated to about 3–3.5 million years (for example, in Kenya[8]), s In Europe, the oldest remains are known from Les Etouaries (France), a site which is now dated to 2.78 million years ago.[9] A North American origin of Megantereon has therefore been suggested. However, recent fragmentary fossils found in Kenya and Chad, which date to about 5.7 and 7 million years, are probably from Megantereon. If these identifications are correct, they would represent the oldest Megantereon fossils in the world. The new findings therefore indicate an origin of Megantereon in the Late Miocene of Africa.[10]

The youngest remains of the genus in Europe date to around 1 million years ago, with the youngest remains in East Asia dating to around 400,000 years ago.[6]



Megantereon was built like a large modern jaguar, but somewhat heavier. It had stocky forelimbs, the lower half being lion-sized. It had large neck muscles designed to deliver a powerful shearing bite. The elongated upper canines were protected by flanges at the mandible. Mauricio Anton's reconstruction in The Big Cats and their Fossil Relatives depicts the full specimen found at Seneze in France at 72 centimetres (28 in) at the shoulder. The largest specimens, with an estimated body weight of 150–250 kilograms (330–550 lb) (average 120 kilograms (260 lb)), are known from India. Medium-sized species of Megantereon are known from other parts of Eurasia and the Pliocene of North America. The smallest species from Africa and the lower Pleistocene of Europe have been estimated at only 60–70 kilograms (130–150 lb).[11] However, these estimations were obtained from comparisons of the carnassial teeth. Younger estimations, which are based on the postcranial skeleton, suggest body weights of about 100 kilograms (220 lb) for the smaller specimens.[12] More recent sources agree with this and estimate Megantereon from the European lower Pleistocene at 200–300 kilograms (440–660 lb).[13]


Teeth and jaw

In Europe, Megantereon may have preyed on larger artiodactyls, horses or the young of rhinos and elephants.[14] Despite its size, Megantereon would have also likely been scansorial and therefore able to climb trees, like the earlier Promegantereon (thought to be its ancestor), but unlike the later Smilodon, which is believed to have spent its time on the ground.[15] Megantereon also had relatively small carnassial teeth, indicating that once making a kill, it would have eaten its prey at a leisurely pace, either hidden deep in bushes or in a tree away from potential rivals. This indicates a similarity to modern leopards and their lifestyle in that it was probably solitary.[15]

It is now generally thought that Megantereon, like other saber-toothed cats, used its long saber teeth to deliver a killing throat bite, severing most of the major nerves and blood vessels. While the teeth would still risk damage, the prey animal would be killed quickly enough that any struggling would be feeble at best.[16]

In Dmanisi, Georgia, evidence also exists that Megantereon interacted with hominids from a Homo erectus skull. The skull, designated D2280, indicates wounds to the occipital matching the dimensions of the sabre-teeth of Megantereon. From the position of the bite marks, it can be inferred that the hominid was attacked from the front and top of the skull, and that the bite was likely placed by a cat which saw the hominid as a threat. Other machairodont bites have been found on rival predators, including other machairodonts, in past fossil discoveries, the wounds indicating aggressive behavior towards potential competition. The hominid likely managed to escape the Megantereon, as no evidence points to predation or scavenging, although the resulting wounds were fatal.[17] Further evidence of Megantereon being a hunter of hominids exists as carbon isotope ratios in teeth at Swartkrans. When compared with its fellow machairodont, Dinofelis, which shared the same environment, it was discovered that Megantereon was more likely to prey on hominids than Dinofelis, which preferred to hunt grazing animals, based on carbon isotope ratios of its own teeth.[18]

Kills made by Megantereon were an important source of carrion in its ecosystem, with the felid's leftovers frequently being scavenged by both hominins and hyaenids. The abundance of carcasses generated by Megantereon has been proposed as a facilitator of early hominin expansion out of Africa.[12]


  1. ^ Werdelin, Lars; Flink, Therese (2018). "Chapter 2: The Phylogenetic Context of Smilodon". Smilodon: The Iconic Sabertooth.
  2. ^ Turner, A (1987). "Megantereon cultridens (Cuvier) (Mammalia, Felidae, Machairodontinae) from Plio-Pleistocene Deposits in Africa and Eurasia, with Comments on Dispersal and the Possibility of a New World Origin". Journal of Paleontology. 61 (6): 1256–1268. Bibcode:1987JPal...61.1256T. doi:10.1017/S0022336000029632. JSTOR 1305213. S2CID 131803953.
  3. ^ Min Zhu; Yaling Yan; Yihong Liu; Zhilu Tang; Dagong Qin; Changzhu Jin (2015). "The new Carnivore remains from the Early Pleistocene Yanliang Gigantopithecus fauna, Guangxi, South China". Quaternary International. 434: 17–24. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.01.009.
  4. ^ Sharapov, S. (1986). "Kuruksaiskii Kompleks Pozdnepliotsenovykh Mlekopitaiushshikh Afgano-Tadzhikskoi Depressii" [Kuruksai Complex Of Late Pliocene Mammals Of The Afghan-Tajik Depression]. Izdatelstvo "Donish", Dushanbe (in Russian). 270.
  5. ^ Z. Qiu; T. Deng; B. Wang (2004). "Early Pleistocene mammalian fauna from Longdan, Dongxiang, Gansu, China". Palaeont. Sin. New Ser. C. 27: 81–92.
  6. ^ a b Yu Li; Boyang Sun (2022). "Megantereon (Carnivora, Felidae) in the late Early Pleistocene in China and its implications for paleobiogeography". Quaternary International. 610: 97–107. Bibcode:2022QuInt.610...97L. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2021.09.008. ISSN 1040-6182. S2CID 240564316. Retrieved 28 January 2024.
  7. ^ Zhu, Min; Jiangzuo, Qigao; Qin, Dagong; Jin, Changzhu; Sun, Chengkai; Wang, Yuan; Yan, Yaling; Liu, Jinyi (December 30, 2020). "First discovery of Megantereon skull from southern China". Historical Biology. 33 (12): 3413–3422. doi:10.1080/08912963.2020.1867981. S2CID 234399240 – via Taylor and Francis+NEJM.
  8. ^ Lewis, Margaret E.; Werdelin, Lars (November 2000). "Carnivora From the South Turkwel Hominid Site, Northern Kenya". Journal of Paleontology. 74 (6). The Paleontological Society: 1173. doi:10.1666/0022-3360(2000)074<1173:cftsth>2.0.co;2. S2CID 86150362.
  9. ^ Nomade, S.; Pastre, J. F.; Guillou, H.; Faure, M.; Guérin, C.; Delson, E.; Debard, E.; Voinchet, P.; Messager, E. (2014-06-01). "40Ar/39Ar constraints on some French landmark Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene large mammalian paleofaunas: Paleoenvironmental and paleoecological implications". Quaternary Geochronology. Quaternary Geochronology Special Issue: Advances in Ar/Ar Dating of Quaternary Events and Processes. 21: 2–15. doi:10.1016/j.quageo.2012.12.006. ISSN 1871-1014.
  10. ^ De Bonis, L.; Peigne, S.; Mackaye, H. T.; Likius, A.; Vignaud, P.; Brunet, M. (2010). "New sabre-toothed cats in the Late Miocene of Toros Menalla (Chad)". Systematic Palaeontology (Vertebrate Palaeontology) Comptes Rendus Palevol. 9 (5): 221–227. Bibcode:2010CRPal...9..221D. doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2010.07.018.
  11. ^ B. M. Navarro; P. Palmqvist (1995). "Presence of the African Machairodont Megantereon whitei (Broom, 1937) (Felidae, Carnivora, Mammalia) in the Lower Pleistocene Site of Venta Micena (Orce, Granada, Spain), with some Considerations on the Origin, Evolution and Dispersal of the Genus". Journal of Archaeological Science. 22 (4): 569–582. Bibcode:1995JArSc..22..569N. doi:10.1006/jasc.1994.0054.
  12. ^ a b Martinez-Navarro, Bienvenido; Palmqvist, Paul (November 1996). "Presence of the African Saber-toothed Felid Megantereon whitei (Broom, 1937) (Mammalia, Carnivora, Machairodontinae) in Apollonia-1 (Mygdonia Basin, Macedonia, Greece)". Journal of Archaeological Science. 23 (6): 869–872. Bibcode:1996JArSc..23..869M. doi:10.1006/jasc.1996.0081. Retrieved 28 January 2024.
  13. ^ N. Garcia; E. Virgos (2007). "Evolution of community in several carnivore palaeoguilds from the European Pleistocene: the role of intraspecific competition". Lethaia. 40. doi:10.1111/j.1502-3931.2006.00004.x.
  14. ^ Per Christiansen; Jan S. Adolfssen (2007). "Osteology and ecology of Megantereon cultridens SE311 (Mammalia; Felidae; Machairodontinae), a sabrecat from the Late Pliocene – Early Pleistocene of Senéze, France". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 151: 833–884.
  15. ^ a b Antón, Mauricio (2013). Sabertooth. Bloomington, Indiana: University of Indiana Press. p. 185. ISBN 9780253010421.
  16. ^ Turner, Alan (1997). The Big Cats and their fossil relatives. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-231-10228-3.
  17. ^ "OUCH, THAT HURTS! Human-Sabertooth interaction at Dmanisi". June 19, 2013.
  18. ^ "Dinofelis – hominid hunter or misunderstood feline? – Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves | Official Visitor Centres for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site". www.maropeng.co.za.

Further reading[edit]

  • Augustí, Jordi. Mammoths, Sabertooths and Hominids: 65 Million Years of Mammalian Evolution in Europe. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-231-11640-3.
  • Mol, Dick, Wilrie van Logchem, Kees van Hooijdonk and Remie Bakker. The Saber-Toothed Cat of the North Sea. Uitgeverij DrukWare, Norg 2008, ISBN 978-90-78707-04-2.
  • Turner, Alan. The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives: An Illustrated Guide to their Evolution and Natural History. Illustrations by Mauricio Anton. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-231-10229-1.

External links[edit]