The Ancient Animals series continues with a look at what’s known about the saber-toothed cats that lived thousands of years ago.
An imagined hunting scene kicks off this introduction to saber-toothed cats, a well-camouflaged Smilodon fatalis hiding under a bush while a bear, a lion and two wolves pass by (all in the same illustration). A bison is the cat’s prey. Using its strong legs and sharp claws, the cat drags down the bison, killing it with either a bite to the throat or a slash to the bison’s stomach or side. Thomson goes on to explain how we know so much about these ancient cats: Bones found in asphalt tell us about its size, and from that, scientists can determine what it ate, how it caught its prey and a bit about its social groups. Scientists think that these cats became extinct because of competition for prey: Early humans hunted the same animals, and there was less prey to go around because a warming climate meant less grass for them to eat. Plant’s acrylic gouache illustrations are quite realistic, and each animal is helpfully labeled with its scientific name. Backmatter includes a list of other “large-toothed hunter[s]” and resources for finding out more.
A good introduction to both saber-toothed cats and paleontology. (Informational early reader. 6-9)