How likely is it that Smilodon and other saber-toothed cats had manes like modern-day lions? I know that male lions use their manes for display against other males and rival predators, and in addition to having manes, male lions differ from females in being larger. But I read that although there is evidence of Smilodon living in groups like lions, both males and females were supposedly about the same size. Is this true? Is there any evidence of sexual dimorphism in Smilodon? If not, does that indicate that male Smilodon were maneless? Could both males and females have had manes? Or could male Smilodon have just had a small ruff around the head and neck like a male tiger?

According to Yamaguchi et al. (2004), the mane of male lions is "a secondary sexual character thought to have evolved through sexual selection, possibly relating to the evolution of group-living of reproductively active females. The mane is thought to be visually intimidating in contests between males while serving as body armour during fights, and also to have a function in attracting females."

On the other hand, cave paintings of late Pleistocene European cave lions are clearly maneless even in an animal with a clearly-depicted scrotum. This is quite strong evidence that male European cave lions did not possess manes and it is likely that the manes appeared more recently in modern lion subspecies.

With regards to Smilodon there is no evidence to suggest that male individuals were maned. Social living in Smilodon have been inferred but mostly from circumstantial evidences. Even if Smilodon was indeed a social animal, group-living does not immediately equate to the presence of maned males. Also, as the evolution of the mane seems to be a unique feature in modern lions, regardless of whether Smilodon was social or solitary, it is safer to say that Smilodon was maneless like other large cats, including the late Pleistocene European cave lion.

Last edited by Manabu Sakamoto (3rd Mar 2008 17:20:17)

Although manes are unusual in cats (being the product of runaway selection pressures) ruffs are rather common in cool temperate species. Obviously ruffs insulate the throat, reducing heat loss where large blood vessels pass close to the skin.

I would doubt that Smilodon had a mane, but there is a reasonable chance it would have had a ruff.