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Swift Saber-Toothed Cats

Genetic analysis of a saber-toothed cat suggests they may have lived in packs and may have been fast runners, New Scientist reports.

A University of Copenhagen-led team of researchers sequenced the genome of an extinct Homotherium latidens that was unearthed in Canada's Yukon Territory and is at least 47,500 years old. New Scientist notes H. latidens is sometimes called a scimitar-toothed cat, as its canine teeth were shorter than some of its relatives'. As they report this week in Current Biology, the researchers homed in on a number of regions within the H. latidens genome that appeared to be under selection, including spots associated with being active during the day, social activity, and running. 

"Our results support previous work attempting to correlate specific morphological and anatomical characteristics of H. latidens to its lifestyle," co-author Michael Westbury from Copenhagen tells Gizmodo.

The researchers further report a high level of genetic diversity among H. latidens, suggesting the cats may have been more widespread than has been suggested by their spotty fossil samples.