Sabertooth diaries 1: excavating old sketches
As the publication of my book “Sabertooth” comes closer, I am trying to put some order in the mass of material I have been working with during the last few years. It is interesting to leaf through those fat folders full of sketches, some of them dating from MANY years ago: it refreshes my memory about some of the main subjects I have dealt with in the book, and in fact, it motivates me to tackle some of these subjects again, in anticipation for the next book (title to be disclosed at some point in the future…).
Here are some of those “paleo-sketches” (in the whole sense of the word!). They date from more than 15 years ago (Gosh!) and were my early attempts to put together observations about key aspects of big cat anatomy, especially related to hunting:
Sketch 1 (above) shows the sequence of events during a hypothetical hunt by the sabertooth Smilodon: the chase (top); the wrestling struggle (middle); and the killing bite (bottom).
Sketch 2 shows the crucial point when the cat attempts to pull a large prey down to the ground, and it highlights some of the muscles relevant for that action.
Sketch 3 shows aspects of the anatomy of the cheetah, with special attention to the lumbar vertebrae. For the fun of it, I also included a body size comparison betwen the modern cheetah and the extinct species Acinonyx pardinensis. Back then I was already puzzled by the possible meaning of the changes in body proportions during the evolution of sabertooths, and in particular in the shortening of the lumbar vertebra in many species.
Sketch 4 compares the “primitive” skeletal porportions of the early cat Pseudaelurus (left) with those of the very different cheetah (Acinonyx) and sabertooth (Smilodon). Obviously, the skeletons and cats are not shown to scale.
(these drawings do not appear in the book or anywhere else in this form, so this is a sort of exclusive…)
In the years after I did these sketches I have found many fascinating things about these aspects of felid anatomy, which I have tried to reflect in the new book These days I am preparing a short video about some of these things, I expect to be posting it soon!