Name Dinofelis
Order Carnivora
Order Carnivora
Suborder Feliformia
Family Felidae
Class Mammalia
Name Translation Terrible feline
Period Pliocene to Pleistocene epochs
Location Worldwide
Diet Carnivore
Length 70 centimetres tall

Dinofelis is a genus of sabre toothed cat which lived throughout the Pliocene to Pleistocene epochs worldwide.

Description and Paleobiology

In size they were between a modern leopard and a lion, with most about the size of a jaguar (70 cm tall and up to 120 kg), they were medium-sized but powerful cats with a pair of prominent saber teeth. The front limbs were particularly robust compared to modern cats (even the jaguar lacks the robust build displayed in Dinofelis).

Two specimens were examined by Serge Legendre and Claudia Roth for body mass. The first specimen was estimated to weigh 31.4 kg (69 lb), the second 87.8 kg (190 lb). The lower canines are robust, the cheek teeth are not nearly as robust as those of the lion and other modern big cats.

The stout body of Dinofelis may indicate a preference for dense or mixed habitats, although, like the modern jaguar, it may have ranged from forest to open country, including wetlands. Based on Dinofelis likely preference of forest habitats, ethologist William Allen et al. believes it possessed a spotted or striped coat. It is thought that the gradual disappearance of its forest environment may have contributed to Dinofelis extinction at the start of the ice age.


Dinofelis hunted animals including mammoth calves, young and old mastodons, hominids like Homo habilis and other animals. However, examination of carbon isotope ratios in specimens from Swartkrans indicates that they probably did not hunt hominids, instead preferring grazing animals as their main prey. The main predators of hominids in the environment at that time were most likely leopards and fellow machairodont Megantereon, whose carbon isotope ratios showed more indication of preying on hominids.Dinofelis fossils and bones have been found in South Africa near those of the baboons that it possibly had killed. Bones from several specimens of Dinofelis and baboons were found in a natural trap, where Dinofelis may have been lured to feed on trapped prey. Several sites from South Africa seem to show Dinofelis may have hunted and killed Australopithecus africanus, since the finds mingle fossilized remains of Dinofelis, hominids, and other large contemporary animals. In South Africa, Dinofelis remains have been found near Paranthropus fossil skulls, a few with precisely spaced canine holes in their crania, so it is possible Dinofelis preyed on robust hominids as well. This may been rare, however, as carbon isotope ratios contradict this.


  • Dinofelis aronoki: It lived in Villafranchian and Biharian stage in Kenya and Ethiopia. Recently split from D. barlowi.
  • Dinofelis barlowi: It lived from the late Miocene to the early Pleistocene. Geographically, it could be found in Europe, North America, but mainly in Africa. It was 70 cm high and 1 m long, probably the smallest species of Dinofelis.
  • Dinofelis cristata: It was found in China. (Includes D. abeli.)
  • Dinofelis darti: It lived in South Africa during the Villafranchian stage.
  • Dinofelis diastemata: Europe
  • Dinofelis paleoonca: North America
  • Dinofelis petteri: East Africa
  • Dinofelis piveteaui: South Africa
  • Dinofelis sp. "Langebaanweg"
  • Dinofelis sp. "Lothagam"

In The Media

4th episode of Walking with Beasts (Next of Kin).


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