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

Williams Lake to create daytime heated shelter for vulnerable during COVID-19

As of Thursday, April 2, Boitanio Park shelter will be tarped, heated until temperatures warm up

Q&A: Interior Health CEO answers questions on COVID-19 response

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, answers questions regarding COVID-19

Flood repairs result in new COVID-19 respiratory unit at Cariboo Memorial Hospital

Unit will be used for suspect and confirmed cases of COVID-19 required to be admitted

BC Wildfire Service makes changes in response to COVID-19

Crews are stationed at Puntzi fire station in the Chilcotin

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

Most Read