Object of the Month:
Smilodon skull

 

Anna, Learning and Community Development Officer at the Lapworth Museum of Geology, describes her chosen Object of the Month; a skull of a smilodon or sabre-toothed cat.

Video transcript here

Hi, I'm Anna and I work here at the Lapworth Museum of Geology and this is my object of the month. This is a Smilodon or a sabre-tooth cat. They are commonly referred to a sabre-toothed tigers but this is incorrect. They're not related to tigers, they're not actually even related to modern-day cats.

So the sabre-tooth cat was alive between the Pleistocene and the Holocene, which is often referred to as the Ice Age. They were alive with creatures such as the woolly mammoth, which was their prey. And the most interesting feature on a saber-tooth is these large canine teeth which are called sabres, which gives it its name. And these sabres have a specific purpose they're really weak and they're quite fragile. They're not very good at ripping away flesh which most people think they're used for. They're actually designed for a specific purpose of hitting an animal's windpipe or their jugular vein which would cause instant death.

Another  interesting feature about the sabre-tooth is how far it can open its mouth. It can get to almost 180 degrees. If we have a look, we can open its jaws this far, and it's really far, and it needs to be able to do that in order to get anything in its mouth. If it did anything less it’s not going to get anything past those massive sabres. And I'm reliably informed you can fit a human head in there.

Another distinctive feature on the sabre-tooth is these holes. These are not its eye holes, these actually its whisker holes. Its eye sockets are here. And cats have a really specific purpose for whiskers. Their whiskers are as long as the widest part of the body, which tends to be their hips. So if they put their head in a hole and their whiskers touch the edge they’ll back away and know that they can't fit in. So the sabre’s a really, really cool animal in my opinion and you can learn lots more about it here at the Lapworth and all other animals in the Ice Age. So come and visit us.