Fossil evidence of a sabre-toothed cat was found in southern Alberta. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Scientist finds fossil evidence of sabre-toothed cat in southern Alberta

Sabre-toothed cat fossil is a partial bone of one of the cat’s large forepaws

Scientists have found fossil evidence from the last ice age of a sabre-toothed cat in southern Alberta — the northern-most record of the predator.

A study by the Royal Ontario Museum and the University Toronto was published Friday in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

“We were describing the different cat fossils that were found in the Medicine Hat area in Pleistocene deposits,” said Ashley Reynolds, a graduate student at the Royal Ontario Museum who led the study as part of her PhD at the University of Toronto.

“We found potentially four different species, (including) the Smilodon fatalis, which is the famous sabre-toothed cat.”

Reynolds said the sabre-toothed cat is most commonly represented in popular culture, such as Diego from the children’s “Ice Age” movies and from the end credits of “The Flinstones” television cartoon.

Researchers also documented three other types of cats, including the American lion, a lynx or bobcat and potentially a cave lion. The fossil of the cave lion had previously only been found in fossils in Yukon and Alaska.

Supersized cats went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, which was about 11,000 years ago. They hunted large herbivores — such as camels, horses, giant ground sloths and young mammoths — that were also present at the time.

The sabre-toothed cat fossil is a partial bone of one of the cat’s large forepaws.

ALSO READ: Buy your own dinosaur fossil for as low as $7

“Prior to this being described and its record being confirmed … the previous northern-most record was in Idaho, which is about 1,000 kilometres south of Medicine Hat,” Reynolds said.

Her co-author and supervisor, David Evans, said it’s an unusual find.

“Smilodon is best known from tar pit deposits in California and South America,” he said in a news release. “So, it’s both exciting and surprising to find evidence of this iconic sabre-toothed predator in Canada.”

Reynolds said her interest in comparing the anatomy of big cats led her to specialize in the study of pre-historic ones.

“I was looking through our drawers in collections on another project,” she said. “I found a little bag that had a bone in that was labelled as Smilodon and I thought that doesn’t seem right.

“I went to our collections manager and my supervisor and said, ‘Do you guys know anything about this?’”

After reviewing the bone, which was first collected from the area in the late 1960s and later donated to the museum, it turned out that it was a sabre-toothed cat fossil.

“It was really exciting,” said Reynolds. “This is way cooler than we thought it would be.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Collision knocks over fire hydrant on Ypres Street

Duncan firefighters quick to get situation under control

Pumps not needed on the Cowichan River this year

Wet year so far has resulted in higher water levels

Pig destined for sanctuary goes missing from Cobble Hill farm

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Editorial: Mask wearing: innocuous advice has turned into polarizing war

Somehow, this innocuous recommendation has become a polarizing war for some.

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Captive fawn seized from Island home

Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Filmmaker James Cameron’s Comox Valley winery up for sale

The director behind The Terminator and Titanic puts Beaufort Winery on the market after six years

Most Read