Saber-toothed cats were powerfully built ambush predators that were only distantly related to true cats. Smilodon fatalis is the California state fossil and remains of more than 2,000 individuals have been recovered from Rancho La Brea. These cats used their 8-inch long canines to help sever the blood vessels of their prey. Isotopic evidence suggests the saber-toothed cats from Rancho La Brea fed mainly on bison and camels. Baby Smilodon fatalis are born with their deciduous canines. At some point their permanent canine begins to erupt. Once it is the same length as the deciduous one, they lose that canine and the permanent one continues to grow. The rate of growth of these teeth is still not fully understood. At Rancho La Brea we have recovered these canines from many different stages of growth.
At Project 23 we have unearthed nine Smilodon fatalis, seven of which are juveniles from just one meter cubed of sediment. Packed tightly with thousands of other bones the limbs and the skull parts have not yet been matched.