Why saber tooth cats kept their baby teeth | Science & Technology

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Analysis suggests the baby teeth of saber tooth cats stayed in place for years to stabilize the growing permanent saber tooth, perhaps allowing adolescents to learn how to hunt without breaking them.

The fearsome, saber-like teeth of Smilodon fatalis—California’s state fossil—are familiar to anyone who has ever visited Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits, a sticky trap from which more than 2,000 saber-toothed cat skulls have been excavated over more than a century.

Though few of the recovered skulls had sabers attached, a handful exhibited a peculiar feature: the tooth socket for the saber was occupied by two teeth, with the permanent tooth slotted into a groove in the baby tooth.

(Image Credit: Massimo Molinero.)

Paleontologist Jack Tseng, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, doesn’t think the double fangs are a fluke.

Nine years ago, he joined a few colleagues in…

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