The double-fanged adolescence of saber-toothed cats

April 30, 2024

The fearsome, saber-like teeth of Smilodon fatalis — California's state fossil — are familiar to anyone who has ever visited Los Angeles' La Brea Tar Pits, a sticky trap from which more than 2,000 saber-toothed cat skulls have been excavated over more than a century.

Though few of the recovered skulls had sabers attached, a handful exhibited a peculiar feature: the tooth socket for the saber was occupied by two teeth, with the permanent tooth slotted into a groove in the baby tooth.

Paleontologist Jack Tseng, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, doesn't think the double fangs were a fluke.

Berkeley News