Washington: Saber-toothed tigers, which existed 10,000 years ago, had exceptionally strong forelimbs to pin down their prey compared to the present day cat family.
The now extinct cat roamed North and South America preying on large mammals such as bison, camels, mastodons and mammoths.
Telltale clues from bones and teeth suggest they relied on their forelimbs as well as fangs to catch and kill their prey.
But the size and shape of the sabertooth canines also made them more vulnerable to fracture than cats living today, said author Julie Meachen-Samuels at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre in the US.
"Cats living today have canines that are round in cross-section, so they can withstand forces in all directions. If the prey is struggling it doesn't matter which way it's pulling - their teeth are unlikely to break," she said in findings published online in the June issue of PLoS ONE.
"Many scientists infer that saber-toothed cats killed prey differently from other cats because their teeth were thinner side-to-side," she said.
First Published: Monday, July 05, 2010, 10:04