The creature has the head and neck of a saber-toothed predator. It has long upper canines and kills with a strong downward swing of the head, hence its neck is strengthened to perform this task

Its body is hominid, with apelike arm, shoulders, and ribcage, and typically taking a stance with most of the spine being vertical

This animal is a mammalian tetrapod. It also has a human-like intellect

Could such an animal make sense ecologically speaking? Or is a humanoid shape not compatible with a saber-toothed predator?

  • $\begingroup$ so you are basically describing a tiger person or something. I don't know why you call a being with human like intelligent an animal anyway. As to it being possible to exist depends on your world but i don't see why it should not be able to exit. The only weird part is why it slams prey instead of biting them this seems way more effective. Because really i think being bipedal would make it more difficult to that slam attack. @Ichthys King $\endgroup$ Mar 30 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ Does it have thumbs? A pointy stick that you can put down is always better than a pointy stick that's attached to your body. It can be much bigger without crippling you and made of something you didn't have to make out of your body. Having the leverage and dexterity provided by putting the pointy stick at the end of the arms is an extra bonus. $\endgroup$
    – g s
    Mar 30 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ Can we get a picture of this? If the creature normally walks in an upright posture and its spine is vertical then either a) the "face" is oriented forwards and the teeth are parallel to the spine, making it almost impossible to impale with them; or b) the "face" is looking up at the sky and it can't see where it's walking, though if it does somehow know something is in front of it it can bend forwards to stab downwards. Again, we need a picture, since the two configurations I visualise make it either wandering around blind or unable to employ the saber teeth. $\endgroup$ Mar 31 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ This is a warcraft-like orc with inverted tusks. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Apr 2 at 17:48

2 Answers 2


I like to tell my students "never say never" in biology- we are always surprised by new discoveries and exceptions. Also the occurrence of something (exceptionally long canine teeth) is one thing, and the evolutionary reason is another - attack? Defense? Attracting mates? Opening beer bottles?. (Not that we will discover a fossil sabre toothed primates, but that we should always be very careful of saying it could've never happened if we re-ran evolutionary history; more appropriate and fun to consider how it could've happened)

First, few primates are primarily carnivores, and those that are usually eat very small prey (insects, lizards). So a sabre toothed primate may need something more than predatory reasons for its teeth, or we need to think about why it would be attacking large prey when that's unusual for primates.

But second, as noted by others, Large canines do occur in primates such as some baboons. They can also occur in animals that are primarily herbivores, like pigs and warthogs. So, various species can have sabre-ish teeth, why not intelligent upright apes? In baboons they appear to have evolved for male vs male combat or intimidation, and in warthogs for defense against predators. A key issue to consider then is what does this primates eat, do males and females both have large teeth, and what eats it.

Third, there are statistical analyses that suggest that even in sabre toothed carnivores the length of the canines is excessive and may have been driven in part by sexual selection (see "Canine Evolution in Sabretoothed Carnivores: Natural Selection or Sexual Selection?" 10.1371/journal.pone.0126415).

Many morphologicaly excessive and outlandish traits in nature appear to have evolved due to sexual selection, especially in birds where males can be brightly colored or have excessive plumage despite the costs in terms if energy and being seen by predators. Sexual Selection is relstively more subtle in primates, but can drive some conspicuous traits (eg Mandrill, geladas).

Fourth, as noted by others the biomechanics of attacking with teeth in an upright primates aren't efficient, and better to use your long arms than risk damage to your face. At the very least have claws to bring things to you to then chomp on it. Big teeth could ve handy in defense once something has it's handsome on you though

Fifth, humans are exceptionally intelligent, but Chimps, dolphins, elephants and squids are too in their own ways, and other species have sophisticated communication and even proto-culture.

So, all things considered, I'd say that a sabre toothed primate with human intelligence is not impossible, but it's evolution wouldn't have likely been driven by being a top predator. Sexual Selection would seem to be the best candidate, and perhaps combat between one of the sexes or defense against a class of predator where being able to bite it back would help. (By the time a tiger jumps you there's not much chance to bite it back, but if a boaconstrictor wraps you up biting it could perhaps help)


The closest you'll get? Something like this.

The problem? If you're an animal with great physical strength, powerful jaws, teeth and sharp claws etc and you actively hunt and drag down your prey? You don't need near human levels of intelligence. Brains are very expensive calorie wise. Evolution is tough and it has no time of luxuries, brain wise or anything else.

EDIT: Absent a pressing need to develop tool using skills and then becoming reliant on them for survival? Your killer ape will evolve to be just as smart as is advantageous when trying to coordinate a successful hunt - and no smarter. For example it's well documented that (some) chimpanzees organize hunts for meat (mostly other primates) and occasionally will also organize to attacks or raids to other bands of chimps. The thing is they do this quite successfully without the need for near human level communication skills.

Long story short? Early Hominids absolutely needed tools to cut/crack open carcasses and other hard or difficult to extract food stuffs in order to survive. Your carnivorous ape guys? Don't.

  • $\begingroup$ can we stop with the old baseless theory that human brains evolved because of the unga bung meat and hunting? Guess what happens if you take a child and throw him in a forest to be grown by animals? he grows up to be almost retarded... gues what happens if you take a child, feed him properly and give him no education, don't raise and don't speak to him at all? he grows up to be almost retarded! Guess what happens if you also put that same child into violent situations where the child has to kill and fight to survive? he grows up to be fully medically retarded. $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Mar 30 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ yada yada calories.... humans need 1800-2000 kcals AT MOST to survive while being midly active and maybe double that if you are on the move 17 hours a day..... and only 20% of your passive kilocalories are needed for your brain... even a caveman eats enough to feed it's brain... yet in neanderthals you see that intelligence is matched with sociality not with who eats the biggest animals and makes the longest spears $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Mar 30 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Xenophile. Intelligence evolved in lockstep with us becoming intelligent TOOL users and ground dwelling social primates and sure, Neanderthals, humans and their near relatives use/d a relatively small % of calories to support their brains. But you seem to have conveniently forgotten in your little rant that as species they're all at or near the END of the hominid evolutionary queue with the fully developed language/and social skills and tool skills needed to generate all those calories. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Mar 31 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Xenophile. The real challenge/bottleneck is at the START of the process. Developing tool using skills and acquiring enough calories while constantly on the go in search for food & being a small framed/light weight animal? You know, that long chain of false starts and missteps represented by early hominids with small brains that started 6 million years or so ago but which you seem to have conveniently overlooked. The KEY problem remains that purely carnivorous hunters don't need to develop tools. Only animals that eat meat and don't have the physicality to drag down their pray manually do. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Mar 31 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ I think what @mon may be getting at or adjacent to is that the road to humans becoming a top predator was facilitated by other factors, such as intelligence, sociality, communication. If an animal evolves into a top predator first, which usually involves some combination of armaments, size and speed, the Evo paths for intelligence, sociality may not be productive. Some top predators have high levels of communication and sociality, such as wolves, lions and orcas, but many are not (white sharks, bears, predatory birds) $\endgroup$
    – N Brouwer
    Mar 31 at 14:56

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