Why cat-like creatures vanished from North America for 6 million years

Around 23 million years ago, North America’s sabre-toothed cat-like animals disappeared, leaving the continent without felines for several million years. Now palaeontologists are solving the mystery of this “Cat Gap”

Life 12 January 2022

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LOOKING out over an expanse of scrubby sagebrush, it is hard to imagine that the high desert in eastern Oregon was once home to large creatures that resembled sabre-toothed cats. The land here is mostly dry and grassy, punctuated by sharp hills. There isn’t a lot to crouch behind while waiting to ambush prey, and little in the way of trees to climb or sharpen claws on: in some places, the only sign of plant life is a layer of lichen on the rust-coloured slopes. But it wasn’t always like this. “These animals made their home here as early as …

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