Washington: A new study on prehistoric big cats suggests that finicky eaters usually do not survive mass extinction events.
Cougars, which will eat meat, guts, bones - the proverbial whole enchilada, survived the mass extinction event 12,000 years ago, while their finicky cousins the saber tooth cat and American lion bit the dust, Discovery News reported.
The study determined that eating habits probably saved cougars, and possibly jaguars too.
Co-author Larisa R.G. DeSantis, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, said that before the Late Pleistocene extinction, six species of large cats roamed the plains and forests of North America.
Only two-the cougar and jaguar-survived. The goal of their study was to examine the possibility that dietary factors can explain the cougar`s survival.
She and co-author Ryan Haupt of the University of Wyoming analyzed the teeth of ancient cougars, saber-tooth cats and American lions excavated from the famous La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.
The researchers did this with a new technique called "dental microwear texture analysis." It uses a high-powered microscope to produce three-dimensional images of tooth surfaces. These images reveal tooth wear patterns that suggest how, and what, the animals often ate.
The study is published in the journal Biology Letters.