blaire van valkenburgh in science news: saber-toothed cats were fierce and family-oriented

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Blaire Van Valkenburgh in Science News: Saber-toothed cats were fierce and family-oriented

Despite searching, scientists have not found obvious evidence of a size difference between the sexes in Smilodon; researchers can’t even tell which La Brea fossils are male or female. Size differences between the sexes, if they existed, may have been small. 

“That lack of sexual dimorphism is odd,” says Blaire Van Valkenburgh, a UCLA paleontologist who studies fossil carnivores. Sex-related size differences are seen in many big cats today, most particularly lions. She thinks the lack of sexual dimorphism in Smilodon might hint at a different social structure. Perhaps males weren’t competing quite so intensely for access to females. Maybe there was no single alpha male preventing the majority of males from making a move.