The saber tooth tiger or smilodon is often known as the ancestor of the tiger, nevertheless he is not. Still they are related, because they are members of the same family, the felidae (big cats) but their subfamily is different.
The full name of the saber tooth tiger is Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae Smilodon X. In ordinary language: Animals, Chorda animals, Mammals, Carnivores, Big cats, Smilodon, X. The subfamily is the Machairodontinae, after their extinction they were replaced by the Pantherinae, the subfamily of the modern tigers.
Smilodon is only the subfamily. We can subdivide the smilodon into 3 species:
The saber tooth tiger mainly feeds himself with tall protozoa: bison, deer, elk, wild horses, mastodons and young mammoths. His hunting techniques fit this kind of prey, which is very different to tigers, because they aim for smaller prey. This difference is most obvious in the very long canine teeth of the saber tooth tiger (those of the Smilodon Populator could even grow as long as 28 cm). This difference results in a totally different hunting technique. The smilodon uses his forelegs to take down his prey, next he uses his long canine teeth to perforate the artery in the neck, which results in a very quick death. Unlike the modern tiger, he does not asphyxiate his prey, because his teeth are too fragile and delicate. The fact that its prey consists only of bigger animals, might be the reason why they became extinct, once they were no longer available.
This species lived 2,5 million untill 50 000 years ago (in the Pliocene and the Pleistocene). Scientists suspect that the other 2 species originated from this one. It is the smallest and slightest (55 till 100 kg) from the three species.
This species lived 1,6 million till 10 000* years ago (in the Pleistocene). This species occurred in what is now North America and South West America. This species is sometimes subdivided into the Smilodon Californicus and the Smilodon Floridus. The Smilodon Fatalis would have weight between 160 and 220 kg.
This species lived 1 million till 10 000* years ago (in the Pleistocene). The Smilodon Populator occurred in eastern America and was the largest and heaviest (200 till 300 kg average) species of the three.
* End of the Würm, the sixth and last glacial period. Probably that is the reason why they died out.