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Smilodon (pronounced SMILE-oh-don) (meaning "knife tooth"), the largest saber-toothed cat (or saber-toothed tiger), was a fierce predator about 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) long. Its one foot (30 cm) long skull had 2 huge canine teeth (they were serrated and oval in cross-section) in powerful jaws that opened to an angle of about 120 degrees. It also had very strong jaw and neck muscles that let smilodon stab prey with its deadly teeth. It had a short, bobbed tail. It may have eaten thick-skinned prey like mastodons (hairy, extinct elephants) and bison. Thousands of fossils have been found in late Pleistocene tar pits and rocks from both North America (S. californicus in California) and South America (S. neogaeus in Argentina). Classification: family Nimravidae (early cats). Smilodon was named by Plieninger in 1846.
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