London, Oct 30 : A research by scientists from the US and UK has suggested that far from being solitary hunters, sabretooth tigers were social animals who hunted in packs, sharing the spoils among themselves.
According to a report by BBC News, the abundance of S.fatalis (scientific name for sabretooth tigers) fossils in Californian tar seeps suggests they were packs of scavengers, lured in by the distress calls of trapped prey.
The research, carried out in Africa, found that audio playbacks of prey sounds attract social carnivores, but not solitary hunters.
This suggests S.fatalis was social too, according to the Royal Society journal study.
The sabretooth tiger is famous for its extremely long canine teeth, which reached up to seven inches and extended below the lower jaw.
While sabretoothed "tigers" were powerful predators, they were social beasts, rather than skulking loners, according to Dr Chris Carbone, a research fellow of the Zoological Society of London.
"This research allowed us to conclude that this cat was more likely to roam in formidable gangs, than as a secretive solitary animal," he added.
Many Smilodon fossils have been found in the Late Pleistocene era tar seeps at Rancho La Brea, California - apparently lured to their fate by the calls of trapped, dying herbivores.
In fact, the fossils are so numerous, many palaeontologists now believe the cats were pack hunters, who came to scavenge prey and share the spoils.
The research suggests that the cats lived in prides similar to modern day lions.
In search of further evidence, Dr Carbone and colleagues looked at the behaviour of modern day carnivores, in the Serengeti region of Tanzania and the Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Big cats were lured to sites using audio "playbacks" of prey in distress, or the sounds of lions and hyenas.
The playbacks attracted large numbers of social carnivore species. Lions and spotted hyenas made up 84 percent of the individuals attending.
But solitary carnivores, of all sizes, were rare.
Overall, social carnivores attended the playbacks approximately 60 times more often than would be expected, based on their abundance relative to other carnivore species in the regions.
The researchers compared these to the carnivore species drawn into the tar seeps, apparently by the sounds of prey.
Again, they found that two species appear to dominate. The presumably social dire wolf and Smilodon fatalis made up 84 percent of the carnivores in the tar seeps.
"The striking similarities between the playbacks and the fossil record support the conclusion that Smilodon was social," said Dr Carbone.