Tough Times at La Brea: Tooth Breakage in Large Carnivores of the Late Pleistocene

Science  23 Jul 1993:
Vol. 261, Issue 5120, pp. 456-459
DOI: 10.1126/science.261.5120.456


One million to two million years ago, most of today's large, predatory mammals coexisted with larger extinct species, such as saber-toothed cats and giant running bears. Comparisons of tooth fracture frequencies from modern and Pleistocene carnivores imply that predator-prey dynamics and interspecific interactions must have been substantially different 36,000 to 10,000 years ago. Tooth fracture frequencies of four Rancho La Brea species—dire wolf, coyote, saber-toothed cat, and American lion—were about three times that of extant carnivores. Consequently, these findings suggest that these species utilized carcasses more fully and likely competed more intensely for food than presentday large carnivores.