A few days ago, I saw this very nice reconstruction of a Machairodus giganteus by Peter Hutzler:

enter image description here

More recently, I've been thinking about it, and I'm wondering A) if it would evolve without getting in the way of hunting and B) if it would have a reason to evolve. Obviously, this isn't exactly a mind-bending evolutionary achievement, and could probably happen within a handful of million years.

Since he shows it as being tawny-coloured but without dappled markings, I'm assuming that this is a predator that hunts out on open plains. If so, wouldn't the black face make it easier for prey to spot it? Most modern felids are stealthy hunters (With lions being more like large canids or hyenas ecologically), but I'm not sure how it was for Machairodonts.

The second part of my question is; would it have a reason to evolve? Obviously, if it's a display feature, then it probably could (As long as it didn't hamper hunting ability, as said). But is there anything else it would be useful for? Could it perhaps even aid hunting somehow?

Note that I'm just asking about this evolving in a "big cat" in general, not necessarily a Machairodus or other Machairodontine.

In short; would a black face and throat on a tawny body hamper a big cat's hunting ability prohibitively, and if not, would it have a reason to evolve?

  • $\begingroup$ Won't answer on the "why", but there are lions with black manes, and of course there are black panthers (leopards or jaguars). Depending on the environment, and also when they hunted (i.e. nocturnal predators), it may not be a problem at all. $\endgroup$
    – jcaron
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 21:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ VTC off-topic. This belongs on biology.SE. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn In my experience and from the advice of others, biology.SE doesn't like speculative stuff. $\endgroup$
    – SealBoi
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 8:29

2 Answers 2


Eye black cuts glare.

eye black football player source


Eye Black is a grease or strip applied under the eyes to reduce glare. It is often used by American football, baseball, and lacrosse players to mitigate the effects of bright sunlight or stadium floodlights.

It is a form of functional makeup.

A diurnal visual hunter in a bright environment could benefit from eye black for the same reason athletes benefit.

You can see that in some other predators; depicted - ferret, peregrine falcon. ferret, falcon


would a black face and throat on a tawny body hamper a big cat's hunting ability prohibitively

No, definitely no. The main purpose of the coloring in predators is achieving mimetism, and this can be achieved either by looking like the background or by "breaking" the silouette of the subject against the background, making more difficult to spot it as a clear figure.

The black face seems to be falling in the second category.

would it have a reason to evolve?

Well, obviously the later the prey spots the predator, the higher the chances of being captured. And usually predators do not survive just on good will, but on captured preys.

Note that what you have in the drawing is not too different from the appearance of a hyena.



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