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Finally back for some discussion of saber-tooth cats, nimravids, and barbourofelids. There are two complementary articles that appeared almost simultaneously regarding the shape of the saber-tooth skull. Skull shape was examined by mapping various landmarks on different species’ skulls and measuring the change in position of these landmarks compared to average values.
I HAD PLANNED on writing about protostomes and deuterostomes today, but Christopher Taylor of Catalogue of Organisms mentioned some people think protostomes evolved from deuterostomes, which I had not heard before. So the deuterostomes are on hold until I can read about this idea, probably Monday. Which is fine with me because the alternative topic is the Barbourofelidae!
We are dependent on paleontologists for an accurate reconstruction of a fossil skeleton, but even once that is done it can be hard for us to imagine what the animal really looked like unless an expert steps in and reconstructs the details. From looking at the skulls of the saber-toothed nimravids, barbourifelids, and true cat machairodontids, we know that they were predators with really long canines. But what did they really look like?
I was lucky enough to find a paper which attempts to reconstruct Barbourofelid fricki‘s face.1 To do this the authors used skull structure and muscle attachment scars, with reference to modern cats. While the barbourofelids are not felids, the two groups had superficially similar body plans allowing some comparisons to be made. Many of the conclusions from modeling this species can probably be generalized to other dirk-toothed predators.