Fossils of Saber-toothed Cat Discovered in Las Vegas Wash

First Posted: Dec 18, 2012 02:04 AM EST

Paleontologists have unearthed fossils in the Tule Springs region north of Las Vegas, Nevada, believed to be bones of the saber-toothed cat that existed during the Ice Age.

The fossils were discovered by paleontologists from the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands, California.  The California museum team has been examining the upper Las Vegas for fossils from the Pleistocene Epoch for the past decade.

Though they have come across several fossils during their hunt in the fossil-rich area, this discovery of the saber-tooth is a first.

The saber-toothed cats lived about 35 million years ago and are closely related to the early hyenas. They were excellent hunters with sharp maxillary canines.

Kathleen Springer, Senior Curator for the San Bernardino County Museum and lead scientist for studies in the upper Las Vegas Wash said in a statement, "We're ecstatic. We've been saying for years that these critters were out here, somewhere. It was just a matter of time until we found one."  

Based on radiocarbon analyses, the team said that the fossils were approximately 15,000 years old.

According to Eric Scott, Curator of Paleontology for the San Bernardino County Museum and discoverer of the fossils, meat eaters are uncommon in fossil records. Hence, the discovery of this saber-tooth is rare and exciting.

Scott and Springer are basically building on earlier studies and expanding on what they have learned so far. They noticed clear and obvious signals of regional responses to climatic changes through time that were preserved in the rock records. According to them, these fossils are a part of that picture.

The team has no immediate plans of displaying the recently discovered fossils of the saber-toothed cat. 

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