Geosciences acquires sabertooth tiger replica, organizes dedication ceremony

Trinity’s geoscience department is the home of a recently donated saber-toothed tiger replica skeleton. The replica was delivered in August.

“Last January, an alumna that graduated from Trinity in geosciences and geology in 1982 said she wanted to make this donation,” said Diane Smith, professor and chair of the department of geoscience.

On Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. the geoscience department will hold a dedication to the saber-toothed tiger that was donated by an alumna. Attendance to the reception is by invitation.

“She wanted to make this donation to the department in honor of one the former professors, the late Dr. Edward C. Roy, Jr.,” Smith said.

Students also welcome the gift, particularly those studying geosciences.  It has proven to be an attention-draw for the department.

“I know everybody is really excited about it,” said Sarah Wigginton, a senior. “It is a great addition to the geoscience department and we have been getting a lot of excited new freshmen to look at the skeleton.”

The skeleton is a replica that was molded from an original skeleton found in a tar pit. The original bones are in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

“They made a cast of the bones and a mold of the cast and it’s actually pretty lightweight resin material. It’s not the actual bones, but it is a very high-quality replica,” Smith said.

The saber-toothed tiger’s formal scientific name is Smilodon fatalis. The saber-toothed tiger went extinct 10,000 years ago.

Professor of geosciences Dan Lehrman elaborates on the tiger’s period in history and what can be learned from the replica skelton.

“It’s one species of several within the genus of Smilodon. It’s not the largest one. I think it’s the most famous of them. It has really strong and robust forearms, it has those big saber-toothed canines. What paleontologists have decided is that they are relatively brittle. This guy probably hid in the bushes and leaped and grabbed something,” Lehrman said.

This saber-toothed tiger is known North to South America, but it is mostly known to North America. The saber-toothed tiger lived during the most recent ice age.

“This guy would have coexisted with humans. One of the hypotheses of why they went extinct is because they were hunted by humans, but another one is climate change with the warming climate and the shifts in the organisms and the vegetation,” Lehrmann said.

There was a naming contest for the replica skeleton and there were over fifty submissions. The name will be announced the day of the dedication.

“There is going to be a naming ceremony and we are making T-shirts. We have been voting on names for a week now. We have narrowed it down to five,” Wigginton said.