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GAINESVILLE, Florida March 15, 2013 – A new genus and species of extinct saber-toothed cat that lived five million years ago in what is now Polk County, Florida, has been identified based on fossils of the animal found over the past 25 years.
Called Rhizosmilodon fiteae, the carnivorous apex predator with elongated upper canine teeth was about the size of a modern Florida panther. It lived in a forested coastal habitat that was also inhabited by rhinos, tapirs, three-toed horses, peccaries, llamas and deer, scientists say. Its relatively small size probably allowed it to climb trees and safely hide captured prey from large carnivores, such as packs of wolf-sized hyena-dogs and an extinct type of bear larger than the modern grizzly.