The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.
This description is from David Temple, the museum’s curator of paleontology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating fossils in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org/ – throughout the year.
Lower jaw of saber-toothed cat, Smilodon
(Pleistocene, Rancho La Brea, Los Angeles, California)
The saber-tooted cat, Smilodon represents a kind of power and ferocity unmatched by modern big cats. There has been some scientific debate as to how saber-toothed cats hunted, some arguing that the victim’s throat was neatly sliced by the saber-like canine teeth as the cat’s jaws closed. Others believe that the soft underbelly was the target for mortal injury.
Wander among prehistoric beasts in the Paleontology Hall, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.