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Inferred behaviour and ecology of the primitive sabre-toothed cat Paramachairodus ogygia (Felidae, Machairodontinae) from the Late Miocene of Spain


Manuel J. Salesa, School of Biological and Earth Sciences, Byrom Street, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool L3 3AF, UK.


The Late Miocene (Late Vallesian, MN 10, about 9 Mya) carnivore trap of Batallones-1 (Madrid, Spain) has yielded a large sample of two species of sabre-toothed cats: the puma-sized Paramachairodus ogygia and the tiger-sized Machairodus aphanistus. This has allowed, for the first time, complete studies of the biomechanics and comparative anatomy of these animals. Focusing our study on the small species, Par. ogygia, the most richly represented and best known carnivore from Batallones-1, we attempt to infer some aspects of the behaviour and ecology of this early sabre-toothed cat, such as breeding behaviour, the degree of social interaction between individuals, sexual dimorphism, preferred habitat and prey size. Our results suggest that Par. ogygia was a solitary felid with a low sexual dimorphism index, which in turn indicates low competition between males for access to females, and some degree of tolerance between adults, so that young adults were allowed to share the territory of their mothers for some time after maturity. The machairodont adaptations of Par. ogygia indicate that this species was able to subdue and kill prey in less time than pantherines do, thus minimizing the risk of injury and the energetic costs of this action. In a wider context, the carnivore guild of Batallones-1 and the overall mammal community indicate that the landscape around the trap was a wooded habitat. Batallones-1 is thus establishing itself as one of the most important European Late Miocene fossil localities, not only for the study of the anatomy and biomechanics of the early sabre-toothed cats but also for our understanding of the intra- and inter-specific ecological relationships of the first members of this specialized sub-family of felids.