Cedars-Sinai Blog

Orthopaedist Is Hip to the Ways of Saber-Toothed Cats

The fossilized remains of a smilodon, or saber-toothed cat, excavated from La Brea Tar Pits, undergoing a CT Scan at Cedars-Sinai.

If hips don't lie, Dr. Robert Klapper, orthopaedic surgeon and co-director of the Cedars-Sinai Hip & Knee Replacement Program, may have the answer to a long-debated question among paleontologists: Twelve thousand years ago, when the smilodon, or saber-toothed cat, roamed what is now Wilshire Boulevard, did the predator hunt alone or in packs?

"The most modern technology allowed these bones to speak to us, and they had a lot to say."

After examining bone specimens from the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum using modern imaging technology, Dr. Klapper concluded that the lion-sized animals must have been pack animals.

A closer look

"The most modern technology allowed these bones to speak to us, and they had a lot to say," Dr. Klapper says.

Dr. Klapper, researchers from the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, and staff from the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center used advanced CT scans to examine pelvis and thigh bones from saber-toothed cats.

"If it's a fact that this is how this animal was born, then it's a fact that someone else had to feed it."

Dr. Robert Klapper, co-director of the Joint Replacement Program, examines results of a CT scan of a saber-toothed cat bone found near the La Brea Tar Pits.

Historical curiosity

Research like this could help create prostheses in new in-between sizes to help a wider variety of patients.

Dr. Klapper and his team examined bones like this fossilized saber-toothed cat pelvis from the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.

The future of prostheses