TODAY I WAS poking about at Bone Clones (their slogan is “Only Mother Nature Does it Better”, but I think it should be “Because Everyone Should Have a Replica of the Skull of a Conquistador Who Took an Axe to the Brain“) and found a beautiful replica of a nimravid skull, namely Dinictis.

Many of the nimravids had very elongated canines, and they are often known as the false saber-toothed cats. I’ll quibble with Bone Clones–I think the reason for the “false” description is that these are not really cats at all. Bone Clones saw fit to include them in the Fossil Cats category probably for lack of anywhere better to put them, which is probably also why they stuck the hyena in the dogs section–hyenas are actually in the Feliformia suborder, which also contains the nimravids and true felines, so the hyena would probably be more appropriately placed in the Modern Cats category!

Dinictis was about the size of the modern lynx. It’s canines are reminiscent of those of the clouded leopard, which has the honor of having the proportionally longest canines of all modern cats. They say that the replica was treated to imitate the coloring of the original fossil, but I’m not sure how a fossil’s teeth would become so beautifully banded.

For comparison, the later true cats in the Smilodon genus had much longer canines. While their teeth are very impressive, recent modelling experiments show they actually weren’t able to apply the same bite force as the modern lion. The lion kills prey by clamping onto the neck and throttling the animal, while the sabertoothed cats probably pinned their prey down and relied upon a quick kill by stabbing down and severing the prey’s trachea and major blood vessels.

Bone Clones also has an imposing-looking true saber-toothed cat with extremely robust teeth, Xenosmilus hodsonae. All in all, enough to make me wish I had a few thousand dollars to throw around!