Sabertooth Diaries 4: inner workings
Make no mistake, if we are going to try and reconstruct the sabertooths, the modern, living predators are a vital reference. A cat is an amazing living machine, and we need to know how it works in order to make any sense of the fossil bones of its extinct relatives.
So, in preparation for the task of creating my sabertooth reconstructions, I set out, all those years ago to learn all that I could about the functional anatomy of their modern relatives. And for me, the best way to fix any findings in my mind was to make lots of sketches. Here are a few, some of them rather gritty -and untidy! These exercises really helped me to see sabertooth skeletons with different eyes, and to perceive the dry bones as part of a complex machinery including muscle and tendon.
1.- Here is a study of some of the muscles involved in the climbing action of a leopard. I used color codes and simplified shapes to get a clearer picture of trajectory and action of each muscle, and to visualize the points of origin and insertion in the skeleton.
2.- A study of some of the muscles involved in the gallop in the cheetah. This is part of a nightmarishly complex series of drawings where I tried to visualize the muscles according to the stage of the gallop during which they were especially active, and then showing them by layers.
3.- Another couple of drawings in the same series –even more maddening than the previous ones.
4.- A study of the mechanism of claw retraction in a cat. This is another of those aspects of cat biomechanics that I really needed to draw in order to fix it in my mind. Once you see how this works you understand that we should not talk so much about “retractable” but about “protractable” claws. Retracted is the normal, relaxed position of the claws, and active contraction of several muscles is needed for the animal to deploy its weapons.