Saber-toothed cat refers to extinct subfamilies of Machairodontinae (Felidae), Barbourofelidae (Feliformia), and Nimravidae (Feliformia) as well as two marsupial families that were found worldwide from the Eocene-Pleistocene epochs (42 mya—11,000 years ago), existing for approximately .
The Nimravidae are the oldest entering the landscape around 42 mya and becoming extinct by 7.2 mya. Barbourofelidae entered around 16.9 mya and were extinct by 9 mya. These two would have shared some habitats.
These subfamilies evolved their sabre-toothed characteristics entirely independently. They are most known for having maxillary canines which were, in some species, up to 50 cm long and extended down from the mouth even when the mouth was closed. Sabre-toothed cats were generally more robust than today's cats and were quite bear-like in build. They were believed to be excellent hunters and hunted animals such as sloths, mammoths, and other large prey. Evidence from the numbers found at the La Brea Tar Pits suggests that Smilodon, like modern lions, was a social carnivore.
|Smilodon||6||2.5||0.01||North & South America||17-20cm|
|Hoplophoneus||5||33.7||23.8||North & South America|
|Eusmilus||3||30.5||28||Europe, North & South America|
|Nimravus (Nimravinus)||6||33.5||20||Europe, North America|
|Pogonodon||2||15||6||Europe, North America|
|Homotherium||10||3||0.01||Africa, Eurasia, North & South America|
|Thylacosmilus (marsupial)||2||10||1.8||South America||over 30 cm|
|Adelphailurus||1||23||5||North America (Kansas)|
|Machairodus (Ancestral to Homotherium)||18||15||2||Africa, Eurasia, North America|
|Miomachairodus||1||13.65||5.33||Europe, Asia, Africa, North America|
|Lokontailurus||1||late Miocene||late Miocene||Africa|
|Megantereon||8||3||0.5||Africa, Eurasia, North America|
|Dinofelis||6||5||1.5||Africa, Eurasia, North America|
|Therailurus||1||5||2||Africa, Eurasia, North America|
|Proailurus||2||30||20||Europe, North America|
|Pseudaelurus||1||20||10||Europe, North America|
|Xenosmilus (1 specimen)||1||1.7||1||North America (Florida)|
All saber-tooth mammals lived between 33.7 million and 9,000 years ago, but the evolutionary lines that led to the various saber-tooth genera started to diverge much earlier. It is thus a polyphyletic grouping.
The lineage that led to Thylacosmilus was the first to split off, in the late Cretaceous. It is a marsupial, and thus more closely related to kangaroos and opossums than the felines. The creodonts diverged next, and then the nimravids, before the blossoming of the truly feline saber-tooths.
The saber-toothed cats are some of the best known and most popular of Pleistocene ice age animals. They are among the most impressive carnivores that ever have lived. These cats had enlarged canines usually associated with the name saber tooth.
Saber tooth tigers probably lived in grassy plains, open woodlands, and other dry areas. Saber tooth tigers probably feasted on large animals such as, horses, buffalo, deer, and antelope. Saber tooth tigers lived in North America and South America, Europe and Asia. The best known was Smilodon: many skeletons of it were found in the La Brea tar pit in Los Angeles. The sabre tooths were ambush predators, rather as the leopard is today. There are none living today: they are extinct.