State Fossil

Saber-Toothed Tiger

An ancient resident of California, the saber-toothed cat is easily recognizable by its long canine teeth, which averaged eight inches in length! These cats roamed California during the Late Pleistocene, eventually going extinct approximately 10,000 years ago.

Smilodon californicus is the second most common mammal fossil found in the famous Rancho La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles. Although shorter than a modern lion with shorter limbs and a stubby tail, they weighed nearly twice what a lion weighs. The short bobtail suggests that they ambushed their prey at close range, rather than chasing them down over long distances like cheetahs, lions, and tigers whose long tails aid in balance. Instead, the saber-toothed cat would wait for game to come near, then use its giant teeth to capture its prey.

(Assembly Bill 940, Chapter 792, 1973)

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