SABER-TOOTHED TIGER, any of several large extinct cats that had very long curved daggerlike teeth in their upper jaw. They ranged over Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. They first appear in the fossil record in the early Oligocene Period, some 40 million years ago, and probably became extinct only about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.
The extinction of the saber-toothed tiger is often given as an example of an inadaptive trend in evolution, sup-posedly evidenced by the develoçment of such long canine teeth that the animal s bite became ineffective. This is incorrect. The Saber-toothed tiger most likely became extinct because its prey animals died out, and it was not agile enough to compete with faster predators for the available food.