New Species of Miocene Saber-tooth Recognized (Machairodus lahayishupup)

Scientists recently recognized a new species of saber-tooth cat from specimens found in museum collections. Specimens of this species were originally excavated from sites in Texas, Idaho, California, and Oregon. Although only 7 specimens of this species are known to science, scientists were able to diagnose it as a new species based on the dimensions of the arm bones. Skulls and fangs have yet to be found, and all we know about it comes from arm and jaw bones. Scientist gave the species the unpronounceable scientific name of Machairodus lahayishupup. One of the specimens was found on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the scientists decided to honor the Indians by giving it the name lahayishupup, meaning ancient cat in the Cayuse Indian language. I say thumbs down for giving it such an unpronounceable name.

Artist’s rendition of the newly recognized species of Miocene saber-tooth. This artist forgot to draw the fangs.
Fossilized arm bone of the Miocene saber-tooth.
Fossilized jaw bone of the Miocene saber-tooth. Skulls and fangs of this species have not been discovered yet.

Scientists believe the species lived from 9 million years BP to 5.5 million years BP during the late Miocene. Individuals averaged 600 pounds and may have reached weights of 900 pounds. Potential prey species in North America included rhinos, horses, tapirs, camels, and giant ground sloths. It was likely an ambush predator that lived in semi-tropical woodlands. Most of North America was semi-tropical then. At the time similar species occurred in Eurasia and Africa. This species may have been ancestral or related to the ancestor of the well known Smilodon fatalis and the lesser known Homotherium latidens both of the late Pleistocene.


Orcutt, J. and J. Calede

“Quantitative Analysis of Feliform Humeri Reveal the Existence of a Very Large Cat in North America during the Miocene”

Journal of Mammalian Evolution (28) 2021


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