Meet Thylacosmilus atrox

Looks can deceive…

h/t: Michael Fisher

From DeviantArt:

A South American sabertooth-lookalike, Thylacosmilus was in fact a marsupial – at roughly the size of a jaguar, one of the largest marsupial carnivores.

Looks a great deal like a saber tooth tiger, huh?


The similarity between Thylacosmilus and Smilodon is an excellent example of convergent evolution - two distantly relating forms converging upon a simular morphology and life habitat. There are an three other examples of mammals that have developed saber-teeth- in fact most of the last 65 million years had some large cat-like saber-toothed mammal present, the modern biota is the outlier.

Thylacosmilus went extinct roughly 3 million years ago, closely coinciding with the formation of the land bridge linking the Americas. Animals from North America emigrated south and those from South America journeyed north; this fauna exchange is referred to as the Great American Interchange. It is at this time we start to find Smilodon fossils in South America. It is thought that the arrival of this relatively larger predator (the largest Smilodon was twice the size of the largest Thylacosmilus) may have been what drove the only known marsupial saber-toothed form to extinction.

Here’s a cool example of convergent evolution the kids can understand:

“CONVERGENT EVOLUTION occurs when two or more groups that are not closely related come to resemble each other more and more as time passes. This is usually the result of occupation of similar habitats and the adoption of similar environmental roles..”

About Anne Crumpacker

I like to read. I also like science, art and drama. I like really big numbers, but I don’t understand them. I like kids and being silly, but sometimes I feel serious and that’s when I like thinking BIG THOUGHTS. You can visit me @
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