For years, paleontologists have been trying to understand how this species was able to hunt with this eye morphology, so different from other carnivores. For example, felids such as the prehistoric Smilodon or the present-day lion have forward-facing eyes that allow them to effectively stalk prey.
In their case, the left and right fields of vision overlap and send information to the brain, which interprets depth and distances more effectively, and allows the world to be seen better in three dimensions (stereopsis).
But what about Thylacosmilus atrax?
Studying the evolution of mammalian vision is difficult because the actual receptor organs—the eyes—are not preserved in the fossil record.Mention paleontologists Analia Forasiepi and Charlene Gaillard of the Argentine Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET) in their work.
To describe the vision successfully Thylacosmilus, they performed CT scans of the skulls of three specimens and several carnivores. Analysis of these images shows that the orbits Thylacosmilus Front and vertical was an advantage
Partial stereopsisThis compensated for their limited convergence of orientation.
So even though his eye holes aren’t conducive to three-dimensional vision, his eyes are
Still about 70% visual field overlap can be achieved. The authors of the study believe that this percentage is sufficient Thylacosmilus A skilled hunter.
Teeth that change everything
The Thylacosmilus The five species of saber-toothed animals that have ever been discovered possessed the largest canines. These enormous teeth also appeared at the top of his skull, which certainly influenced the latter’s shape, including the placement of the eye sockets.
As is usually the case in carnivores, there is no room for eye sockets in the front of the face.Researchers take note.
- The Thylacosmilus atrax Lived between nine and three million years ago.
- It is more than 1.5 meters long and weighs about 115 kg.
A morphological compromise
Paleontologists believe that
Specific orientation of orbits Thylacosmilus atrax The morphology represents a compromise between the primary function of the skull, which is to enclose and protect the brain and sensory organs, and the unique function of this species, which is to provide space for the development of the canines..
Now the question is, evolutionarily, why did the species develop such large canines that they had to restructure the entire skull?
The question remains, but this reorganization may have facilitated hunting in a way that remains to be explained.