5 million-year-old fossils reveal 2 new species of saber-toothed cats in South Africa

Scientists have discovered bones of two previously undiscovered kinds of cats with saber teeth. They lived in Africa approximately 5.2 millennia ago. According to a new study, These discoveries have changed how scientists once knew about the extinct felines.

The new findings may help to understand the changes to the environment happening during the time, which could shed light on why our ancestral ancestors began walking on two feet. Researchers say.

The skeletal remains of two new species, Dinofelis werdelini and Lokotunjailurus Chimsamyae, were discovered along with bone remains of the two kinds, Adeilosmilus Kabir as well as Yoshi obscure close to the city located in Langebaanweg in the West Coast in South Africa. The four species are part of the Machairodontinae family- an extinct feline predator species that includes most saber-toothed cats. (The name Machairodontinae refers to “dagger-tooth.”) Most members in this subfamily were similar in size to most big cats today.

In a recent study published on the 20th of July in the journal Science, Researchers identified the remains of four species. Discovering D. willing wasn’t a shock to the team because species belonging to this genus had previously been found worldwide, including in Europe, North America, and China. However, the scientists were shocked to find L. Chimsamyae since, up until this point, the members of this genus were only found within Kenya and Chad.

The new study’s findings suggest that most saber-toothed cats could be more prevalent than we thought, researchers said in an announcement.

Researchers hold the skull of a saber-toothed cat belonging to the Genus Smilodon that wasn’t part of the study. (Image credit: iScience Jiangzuo et al.)

The researchers examined the bones of the newly discovered species with those of the known cats with saber-toothed teeth to construct the first family tree of the entire group. The four species of Langebaanweg weren’t close to one another and most likely had different ecological niches despite being in the same region approximately at all times.

For instance, L. chinsamyae and A. Kabir were more extensive and better capable of speedy runs and, therefore, more suited to grasslands in open areas. But D. wireline and Y. obscura were smaller and more agile, which could have been more suitable for forests and covered areas, as the researchers noted.

This diagram shows how different species of saber-toothed cats overlapped with each other in various regions. (Image credit: iScience Jiangzuo et al.)

The interplay of the two species suggests that their habitat consisted of open grasslands and forests. The researchers believe this could be due to the shift in Africa’s climate, gradually turning Africa from a massive available table to a forest, today’s predominant habitat species.

In the past, scientists weren’t sure when the change in the type of ecosystem across Africa might be taking place. Knowing more about this could help us discover how the human ancestors or hominins who came to Africa at this time evolved into bipedal. According to researchers in their study, the shift in the environment is believed to be an “important trigger” that pushed hominins towards walking on two legs.

However, recent research studying other African ancient ecosystems has found that grasslands could have begun to appear up to 21 million years old. According to the Conversation, this suggests that changing ecosystems could not have affected the bipedalism of hominins in any way,


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