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Interspecies Conflict/Prehistoric Predators


The last ice age, as you may know, hosted some of the largest varieties of todays megafauna. There is some debate as to how big they got so for all the matchup's i have listed the weights and overall size of the animals.

1) Smilodon Populator (2.3m long, 1.2m tall at shoulder, 375kg) vs American Lion (2.5m long, 1.2m tall at the shoulder, 351kg)

I have used the largest maximum accepted weight for both animals which occurred during the very early Holocene. New evidence suggests that they would have encountered each other in areas such as Peru, South America.

2) Smilodon Populator (2.3m long, 1.2m tall at shoulder, 375kg) vs Grizzly Bear (2.0m long, 1.3m tall at shoulder, 400kg)

Both these animals would have encountered each other at the end of the last ice age so if they did fight like wolves and bears do today who would come out on top or would it be similar  to the Russian brown bear and the Siberian tiger?

3) 5x Smilodon Populator (2.3m long, 1.2m tall at shoulder, 375kg) vs South American Giant Short Faced Bear (2.7m long, 1.7m tall, 1500kg)

These two predators, wether in North or South America would have encountered each other and presumably fought each other over the kills of large megafauna. So if 5 smilodon populator of the same size stated above encountered the short faced bear what do you think would happen?

4) American Cheetah (2.0m long, 1m tall at the shoulder, 100kg) vs Leopard (2.0m long, 80cm at the shoulder, 75kg)

If these animals lived in the same ecosystem who would dominate over a kill and in a fight? If the leopard in this scenario is too small how much larger would it have to be to dominate?

5) As tigers and lions gradually disappear from certain parts of the world could the leopard evolve and fill the niche? In the Congo of Africa for example leopard skulls have been found which rival some Lionesses, could this been seen as evidence that leopards are crossing over the 90kg barrier which is seen as their maximum?

6) If the leopard did achieve the the body weight of 120kg, it would need to change its behaviour (climbing ect) but would it been able to hold its own against a lioness (also 120kg)?

7) Leopards in the Congo are known the pose a threat to water buffalo and there are some accounts of them preying on the much smaller forest elephant ( calf's of course) but it the leopard could achieve the body weight of 120kg could it take on a large (250-300kg) forest elephant?

8) How many average leopards (60kg) would it take to be able to kill a lioness (120kg) and a male lion (180kg)?

9) How many average cheetah's (45kg) would it take to be able to kill a large male leopard (80kg)?

10) I dont know if you have any knowledge/interest in the last 250,000 years in terms of animals and human development (mentally) but if we assume that humans crossed into America via the land bridge between Russia and Alaska could the presence of large predators (Bears, Cats, Wolves) kept humans out of America until much later hence why they didn't arrive until 15,000 years ago (estimate)

If you could answer these questions in as much detail as possible that would be great.

Thank you,


Hey Morgan,

I don't usually do prehistoric questions because I'm simply not an expert on them. But yours are so thought out and interesting that I'm going to give it a go.

1) At the set weights I'd say the Smilodon wins. The Smilodon is probably the more powerful animal and I would probably favour it to win a grapple and get in positions to use those teeth. How effective they would be against a similar sized predator I'm not sure. Obviously if clean bites are landed the lion is in huge trouble. A bit of weight for the Smilodon would help for sure.

2) Not quite like your modern day comparison, simply because Siberian Tigers of that size just aren't around any more. At this near parity I think I'll go with the Smilodon, but it's a toss up. The bear has the strength and protection to avoid life-ending injuries for at least a while; plus it has the tools to really hurt the Smilodon. But I think the Smilodon's overall strength and speed combo is far more impressive and for that reason I'll give it the win.

3) Five 375kg Smilodon populator's at once? This poor bear has no hope! I understand the bear was monstrous but five of these beasts is just cruel I think.

4) Very hard for me to say with my limited knowledge of American cheetahs. Were they simply larger versions of modern day cheetahs? Or were they just similar in morphology but far more dangerous animals? I'd lean towards the former and in that case, a 75 kg leopard has a good chance. 25kg is big, and I'd be more comfortable with under 15kg, but if anything like modern cheetahs, the American cheetah won't be able to handle the kind of fight a big leopard will bring to it.

5) No doubt. Leopards are highly adaptable animals and do seem capable of slotting into niches left behind from other big cats. Some of the photos of the monster leopards in Africa just blow my mind. All my life I've considered them 40-70kg type animals, and now we're regularly seeing ones well over 80kg. I don't know if you could entirely attribute larger leopards to lion and tiger declines, but from the perspective of someone outside looking in, it certainly seems to be an accurate trend.

6) Well I mean if it can still climb at 120kg then it can still climb. But yeah, if on the ground more they would have to fight the other big predators. At parity a leopard has an excellent chance against a lioness. We've both seen these huge leopards with their massive heads and necks. They absolutely can stick with lionesses in a fight.

7) I don't think so, no. A small elephant is still a ridiculously difficult prey animal and I think an adult would be safe from any solo predator.

8) Well I think two 60 kg leopards could probably pull it off. The lioness is far above them sure, but I think even a leopard half the size puts up a good fight. If one isn't killed quickly the lioness will be in trouble. Three would certainly do it. You'd probably have to put it up to four minimum for the lion. I still don't think it'll walk through the leopards like nothing, but the major problem would be how the leopards can actually kill the lion. Besides sheer size, it has that mane offering some protection. There needs to be enough leopards to really grind the lion down until he is open for the taking.

9) First thought is two, but even two would struggle. The difference between one of the cheetahs and the leopard would be huge, in a physical sense alone. Add on the leopard's nature and it's a huge mismatch. So simply adding one more cheetah probably won't cut it. Maybe three would have to do.

10) I do have some interest in Anthropology, but it's certainly not an area of expertise for me. What you state seems very likely to me. I believe the use of fire wasn't widespread until around that time, so to me it seems humans simply didn't have the tools to venture beyond where they were before then. Teh threat of large predators was very likely one of the major obstacles they couldn't overcome without fire.

Probably not as detailed as you wanted Morgan but I'm very busy at the moment! Use the follow up function and we can discuss any of these in further detail that way.


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Jim Wilson


I can answer most questions relating to real or hypothetical situations. I have a better understanding of animal behavior and specifically predatory behavior and interspecies predatory relationships. Mammals is my field of expertise but I can do my best in answering questions regarding other animals. Small mammals are my favourite matchups. One or two prehistoric match-ups is OK, but please do not focus on them as they are outside my expertise.


Even before completing my degree I considered myself an expert in mammal behavior. Doing my degree only furthered my interest and knowledge in the subject. After uni I got the opportunity to spend 6 months in South Africa and Kenya where I spent nearly every day basically observing and studying the animals of the savanna.

BSc Degree in Zoology from the Melbourne University, Australia.

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