lion species

lion species

lion species
lion species

From the team at BBC Wildlife Magazine

Often described as the king of the jungle, lions are a distinctive and well-known big cat species. Learn about lions in our expert guide, including where they live in the wild and diet.

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By Emily Gobbett, Carys Matthews

The African lion is one of the most iconic and revered mammals in the world. With its strong jaw, powerful body, and fierce roar – which can be heard several miles away, it is easy to see why this species has been admired throughout history.

lion species

While the species once roamed widely in parts of Europe and Asia, numbers of lion have declined significantly in recent years, with lions now only found in parts of Africa.

One of the big cat species and a domineering apex predator, our expert lion guide looks at key species facts, including identification, diet, habitat and why the species is now endangered.

There is only one species of lion, which is known scientifically as Panthera leo. There are two recognised subspecies, the African lion P. l. leo and the Asiatic lion P. l. persica.

Some taxonomists have proposed a different split of the subspecies – with P. l. leo covering lions in Asian and west, central and north Africa, and P. l. melanochaita for lions in south and east Africa.

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  • Male lions boast impressive manes, conveying a range of information about their owners status among the pack. Long dark manes indicate that the lion is in peak condition. The darker the mane, the more attractive to females. However, long dark manes can also lead to lower sperm counts in males when temperatures rise.

    Lions have very complex communication behaviours, producing a variety of calls, but are known for being the king of the roar. A lions roar can be heard from 8km away, being brought on by a number of reasons. From territorial displays to locating other members of the pride, allowing females to differentiate between outsiders and males of the pack, helping them protect their cubs from lions that could potentially attack their young in aims to overthrow the pack.

    As the sun sets on the reign of the most famous lion ever to walk the Maasai Mara, we look back at the life of a legend – and the winds of change blowing through this iconic grassland.

    Read about Scarface: the legacy of a lion

    Lions once lived in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America an Northern India. Now lions primarily live in Africa, aside from a small group of Asiatic lions that live in India’s Gir Forest.

    African lions have a variety of different habitats, from open woodland, to harsh desert environments, these versatile animals can adapt to many different environments, although you’ll never find them in the rainforest.

    India is the only country in the world that is currently home to both of these charismatic big cats, and history and biology say they can indeed co-exist. The felines’ ranges overlapped for millennia across much of western Asia – in India, this was the case into the early 19th century.

    Much as predators co-exist in Africa, tigers and lions can live together within carefully drawn boundaries. For example, they may use adjoining habitats, or the same habitats at different times. Behavioural adaptation is another strategy, particularly when it comes to hunting: tigers are largely
    killing prey by ambush, while lions are social felids, hunting co-operatively with their prides.

    The question of lions and tigers as neighbours is gaining importance in India. The Kuno Palpur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh has been ‘prepared’ and is awaiting translocation of a number of Asiatic lions, which survive only in the greater Gir landscape in Gujarat, western India. In the meantime, tigers are moving into Kuno from the famous Ranthambhore Reserve, crossing rivers and ravines along the way.

    This Q&A originally appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine, and was answered by Prenrna Bindra.

    Lions will kill anything, from mice and lizards to wildebeest and other large animals to feed the pack. If an opportunity arises, lions will steal kills from wild dogs or hyenas.

    Most hunting takes place at dusk until dawn with the cooler temperatures being essential for the long hours spent in search of food. On days where food is highly accessible, an average male lion can consume 15 percent of their body weight.

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    Young lions are called cubs. When they are born with blue eyes, changing to an amber hue at the age of three months. At eleven months cubs will start to hunt, and will remain with their mother for around two years. Females often stay on to become members of the pride, whereas male cubs will go off attempting to establish their own. Females tend to have two to three cubs per litter.

    Lions are the most sociable members of the cat family living in prides with up to 25 others. This is down to the availability of prey in the area. The females are all related, often making up the majority of the pride, consisting of only 1-4 males.

    Not really, says Sarah Huebner from the Lion Research Centre.  Though individuals from most prides exhibit tree-climbing behaviour, they don’t do it very often – in less than five per cent of observations.

    The primary motivation for heading up into the branches it to avoid something unpleasant on the ground, such as an attack by elephants or buffalo. These skirmishes often occur after a failed predation event, when the prey animals have sufficent numcers to retaliate. Elephants and buffalo are quite capable of killing a cornered lion due to their size and strength.

    Lions may also climb trees to get better vantage points for identifying potential targets, or to avoid biting insects.

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    Overall, lions are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, although the different subpopulations have different classifications. The Asiatic subspecies is listed as Endangered.

    Lions face a number of threats, including habitat loss, a decline in their prey species, trade in bones and other body parts for traditional medicine, and killing in retribution and defence of human life and livestock.

    Words: James Fairfield

    What do you think will save lions from going the way of sabre-toothed cats? More severe penalties for persecution? Greater restrictions on where people can live? Or a model that offers those Africans who live with lions some recompense for doing so?

    Lions are in trouble. Populations are declining across Africa, mainly because of increasing conflict with herders of cattle and other livestock.

    In short, people kill lions to stop them from taking their cows, sheep and goats.

    Lions in some countries are fairing better than others. In South Africa, for example, the population increased by 7 per cent over two decades, largely thanks to the use of fencing that separates the predators from the people.

    In Zimbabwe, numbers have grown by more than 1,000 per cent (but from a very, very low base of about 50), mainly on the back of trophy hunting.

    lion species

    But in all of West Africa and even popular wildlife tourism destinations such as Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia, they’re disappearing at a rate of knots.

    Now new research has found that lions are doing better in the Masai Mara ecosystem, in Kenya (where in fact the overall country trend is down) thanks to the creation of community conservancies.

    Households with conservancy membership receive a share of the money that comes from wildlife tourism. Where there are lions and other carnivores, you get more tourists and local people are financially better off.

    The paper, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, shows that the average lion population density within the Mara’s conservancies – almost 12 lions per 100km2 – between 2008 and 2013 was 2.6 times higher than previously reported in 2003.

    Not only that, but those livestock settlements that were not members of a conservancy and were within the home range of a lion pride had a large negative effect on lioness survival rates.

    “This suggests that lions can survive outside of fenced areas within pastoral regions if communities gain benefits from wildlife,” say the authors, led by Sara Blackburn and Dr Grant Hopcraft of the University of Glasgow.

    Dr Laurence Frank, director of the Living With Lions project, added: “Only local people can reverse the downward spiral [in wildlife numbers], and this study shows that profits from tourism can motivate rural people to tolerate rather than eliminate wild animals.”

    Find out about Living With Lions


    Words: John Coppinger

    Most lions flee, even from people on foot, but an attack is a possibility and knowing how to react could save your life. Walking safaris are a relatively new concept, and lions still perceive humans on foot as a threat.

    Conversely, as the biggest tourist attraction in many African wildlife reserves, lions have become fairly habituated to vehicles and can be approached to within a few feet. Indeed, they often appear totally oblivious to them, despite the excited chattering of their occupants and the clicking of cameras.

    Lion behaviour varies from region to region. When I first went to Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park, it was virtually devoid of tourists, so the lions weren’t habituated.

    Many of our early encounters with lions there (while we were building a camp) developed into mock charges, which was disconcerting to say the least.

    Being charged by a lion when you are on foot is extremely frightening. It is difficult to stop yourself from bolting, but that is likely to prompt an attack. A lion charge is usually accompanied by a deep growling sound that reverberates through your very core.

    It is vital to stand your ground, perhaps retreating very slowly, but to continue facing the lion while clapping your hands, shouting and waving your arms around to make yourself look bigger. Most charges are mock charges, so you will usually be fine.

    And remember: hold your ground! Never run or turn your back.

    Do not approach too closely, especially in the case of mating lions or lionesses with cubs. Different circumstances trigger different behaviour. During courtship, male lions are often extremely aggressive and should not be approached, even in a vehicle.

    A lioness with cubs is naturally protective and should be given lots of space. And being predominantly nocturnal, lions lose their inherent fear of humans at night and become much more dangerous and prone to attack.

    Be more cautious at night. Avoid camping in areas of high lion density – maintain a watch throughout the night if worried.

    Group Digital Editor

    Carys is the Group Digital Editor of and Carys can often be found trail running, bike-packing, wild swimming or hiking in the British countryside.

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    Lejon (Panthera leo) är ett kattdjur av släktet Panthera och världens näst största kattdjur, bara tigern är större. Lejonen lever i motsats till andra kattdjur i flockar. Två av artens viktigaste kännetecken är hanarnas man och dess rytande vilket är unikt bland kattdjuren. Lejon förekommer idag i Afrika och i den indiska delstaten Gujarat.

    Lejonet är det näst största djuret i familjen kattdjur, efter tigern som är större, och det största rovdjuret i Afrika. Den vuxna lejonhanens kroppslängd mäter 170–250 cm och de har en mankhöjd upp till 123 cm. Lejonhonan är mindre, med en kroppslängd som mäter mellan 140 och 175 cm och en mankhöjd som är minst 91 cm. Svansen är mellan 90 och 105 cm för hanar och något kortare för honor.[3][4] Vikten för vuxna hanar varierar mellan 181 och 227 kg och för honor mellan 113 och 152 kg.[3][5][6] Den största kända vilda individen vägde 318 kg.[7] De största lejonen lever i södra Afrika och de minsta i Asien.

    Vuxna hannar i fångenskap kan, tack vare bra skötsel, väga upp till 350 kg. Den tyngsta registrerade lejonhanen var Simba, som levde i England på Colchester Zoo och som juli 1970 vägde cirka 60 stone (ungefär 380 kg),[8] alternativt 375 kg (826 pund). Simba föddes 1959 i Dublin Zoo.[9]

    Lejonet har kort päls som varierar på ovansidan mellan sandfärgad, silvergrå, gulröd och mörkbrun. Undersidan och benens insida är alltid ljusare. En svart tofs vid svansens slut och svarta fläckar på öronens baksida finns hos båda kön.[10]

    Hannar har dessutom en man som är mörkbrun eller svart, ljusbrun eller rödbrun. Manen räcker från kinderna över skuldran och går ibland till bröstet eller buken. Manens form och färg skiljer sig inte bara mellan olika individer utan även mellan olika livsperioder hos samma individ. En lång och mörk man är ett tecken på ett livskraftigt djur. Studier har visat att honor föredrar hanar med lång och mörk man.[11] Andra studier har visat att manen även fungerar värmande i kyligare områden. Dessutom skyddar manen mot slag och bett när hannarna strider.[10] Unga hannar saknar man som först är fullt utvecklad efter cirka fyra år men även här finns stora differenser mellan olika individer.[10]

    lion species

    Nyfödda ungar liknar med sina mörka rosettformiga fläckar, som ibland bildar strimmor, leoparder men dessa bleknar under första levnadsåret.[10] Bara i enstaka fall har även vuxna djur fläckar, men dessa är ganska otydliga och hittas främst på buken.[12] Ibland förekommer berättelser om melanism hos lejon, alltså mörka individer, men hittills finns inga bevis för dessa skildringar.[12]

    Liksom hos tigrar finns ibland lejon som har vit päls. Dessa är inte albinodjur, utan leucistiska djur med en störning i den gen som styr pälsfärgen. Arten producerar melanin, men det lagras inte korrekt i huden. Ögonfärgen är inte påverkad, och djuren har normal syn.[13] I naturreservatet Timbavati i Sydafrika föddes tre vita lejon 1975.[10]

    Lejonet hade under förhistorisk tid ett betydligt större utbredningsområde än idag. Arten fanns från Peru över Alaska, Sibirien och mellersta Europa till Indien och Sydafrika. I många av dessa områden var arten utdöd redan vid slutet av istiden.[14] Under antiken fanns lejonet i södra Europa, Sydvästasien, Indien och i Afrika. Berättelser om lejon på Balkanhalvön finns till exempel från Herodotos och Aristoteles.[källa behövs] Troligtvis försvann de europeiska lejonen omkring början av vår tideräkning.[15] Idag ligger utbredningsområdet huvudsakligen i Afrika söder om Sahara. I Algeriet förekom lejon fram till 1890-talet[16] och det sista nordafrikanska lejonet fälldes 1920 i Marocko.[17] Den sista bekräftade iakttagelsen av en individ i Mellanöstern (Syrien, Iran, Irak) ägde rum 1942 i Iran.[16] Även den asiatiska populationen dog nästan ut mellan slutet av 1800-talet och början av 1900-talet. Effektivare skjutvapen utrotade underarten fram till 1884 i hela östra Asien med undantag av Indien. Bara i nationalparken Gir som ligger i den indiska delstaten Gujarat fanns ett mindre bestånd kvar. Det lägsta antalet individer av denna population registrerades 1913 med omkring tjugo lejon. Fram till 1990-talet ökade beståndet åter till cirka 300 individer.[18]

    Det eventuellt äldsta kända fossilet av lejon hittades i Tanzania och är 3,5 miljoner år gammalt. Vissa auktoriteter anser att detta fynd, som huvudsakligen består av ofullständiga käkar, tillhör arten Panthera leo medan andra betvivlar denna tillhörighet. Hittills finns för få fynd från denna epok för att säkerställa att dessa ben tillhör lejon.[källa behövs] Afrikanska fynd som med visshet kan räknas till lejon är 2 miljoner år yngre.[19]

    För ungefär 700 000 år sedan etablerade sig underarten Panthera leo fossilis i Europa. Kända fynd härstammar från Isernia i Italien samt Wiesbaden och Heidelberg i Tyskland. De flesta fossilerna i Europa är från underarten grottlejon (Panthera leo spelaea), som levde under istiden. De sista lejonen i norra Eurasien och norra Amerika dog ut för cirka 10 000 år sedan vid slutet av senaste istiden.[14]

    Flera recenta (nu levande) underarter blev beskrivna och antalet skiftar mellan olika avhandlingar. Den följande listan med 11 underarter är enligt standardverket Mammal Species of the World (2005),[20] andra avhandlingar listar bara 8 underarter.[14]

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  • Det asiatiska lejonet listas i de flesta zoologiska skrifter som självständig underart men för de afrikanska populationerna finns olika klassifikationer. Nyare molekylärgenetiska undersökningar visade att det förekommer två olika populationer i Afrika med tydliga genetiska differenser. Den första hittas i västra samt centrala delar av kontinenten och den andra i Afrikas östra och södra delar. Den förstnämnda är enligt studien närmare släkt med det asiatiska lejonet än med de östliga och sydliga populationerna. Möjligen dog lejonet i Västafrika ut under senare pleistocen och sedan flyttade individer från Asien till regionen. Att de västafrikanska lejonen liknar sig mycket starkt i sina genetiska egenskaper talar likaså för denna hypotes.[21]

    Tidigare studier, som främst undersökte populationer i östra och sydöstra Afrika, visade resultatet att de är mycket nära släkt med varandra. De kan troligen skiljas i två utvecklingsgrenar (klad) på varje sida av östafrikanska gravsänkesystemet. Lejon från nationalparkerna Tsavo East och Tsavo West i östra Kenya skiljer sig inte genetiskt från sina artfränder i den sydafrikanska provinsen Transvaal men det finns tydliga genetiska skillnader till lejonen i Aberdarebergen (västra Kenya).[22] En tredje studie från 2007 beskriver tre huvudtyper för lejonet: en i Nordafrika och Asien, en i Centralafrika och en i södra Afrika.[23]

    Lejon är inte särskilt specialiserade vad gäller habitat. De föredrar savann men lever även i torra skogar och i halvöken. Lejon undviker däremot täta och fuktiga skogar samt vattenfattiga ökenområden.[12] De är inte lika goda simmare som tigrar men trots detta dokumenteras ibland individer som korsar större floder. Arten har en tendens att vara aktiv på natten. Beroende på vädret, födotillgången, människan och andra faktorer kan lejonet flytta sin aktivitet till dagen.[24]

    Lejon är i motsats till alla andra kattdjur flocklevande och jagar också i flock, vilket kräver samarbete och organisation. De klarar att fälla de flesta tillgängliga bytesdjuren inom sitt revir. Det händer till och med att de skiljer elefantungar från hjorden för att sedan nedlägga och äta dem. Flockens storlek och sammansättning skiljer sig mellan olika levnadsområden. Hos det asiatiska lejonet bildar vanligen 4 till 5 vuxna honor en flock tillsammans med sina ungar. Hannar har i Girs nationalpark egna flockar med upp till 6 individer.[25] I Serengeti består en vanlig flock däremot av upp till 18 honor som alla är släkt med varandra, deras ungar och upp till 7 könsmogna hannar.[25] Flockens revir har en storlek mellan 20 och 400 km².[12] Områdets gräns, som markeras med avföring och urin, förtydligas med rytanden. Unga hannar stannar två till tre år i flocken tills de är könsmogna, därefter jagas de iväg av de äldre hannarna.

    Ensamma hannar vandrar långa sträckor och ibland får de sällskap av en till tre andra hannar i samma situation. Ännu större ungkarlsgrupper är mycket sällsynt.[12] Dessa djur respekterar inga revirgränser och bildar heller inga egna revir. Ofta har de svårt att jaga och livnär sig därför av as.

    Träffar en vandrande hanne på en flock som leds av ett gammalt lejon så försöker den uppnå den andras position. De strider som följer är oftast brutala och kan leda till döden för den ena av kontrahenterna. Om flockledaren blir besegrad måste den i fortsättningen leva ensam. Men oftast dör den på grund av sina sår. En ny flockledare dödar ofta alla ungdjur i flocken. Den biologiska nyttan består av att honorna efteråt blir snabbare parningsberedda.

    Honor stannar oftast hela livet i den flock där de blev födda.

    Lejon jagar oftast under natten eller på morgonen. Under jakten strövar en individ eller en flock oftast långsamt genom reviret och letar efter byten. I regioner med bra tillgång till föda som Serengeti eller Nairobi nationalpark vandrar arten bara 2 till 13 km per dag/natt. Vid Namibias kustlinje iakttogs däremot lejon som vandrade 50 km per dag längs stranden för att fånga sälar.[26] Arten gräver mer än andra stora kattdjur, bland annat för att komma åt vårtsvin.[26] Typiska bytesdjur är antiloper, gaseller, gnuer, afrikansk buffel och zebror men även harar, fåglar och deras ägg, fiskar, ormar samt mindre krokodiler.[26] I grupp kan de även fälla större djur som afrikanska bufflar, elefanter och vuxna giraffer.[27][28] Sällan är lejonet kannibaliskt.[26] Unga lejon börjar vid tre månaders ålder att jaga tillsammans med sin mor. Först efter två år kan de jaga självständigt.[29] Vid jakten uppnår lejon en hastighet upp till 60 km/h[26] men de är inte så uthålliga.[30] Därför smyger lejon oftast fram till bytet för att öka sina chanser. Är avståndet till bytet 30 meter eller mindre[26] rusar lejonet fram med stora språng som kan vara 6 m långa. Större byten dödas med ett fast bett i halsen för att strangulera offret medan små bytesdjur enkelt blir dödade genom ett slag med tassen.[5] Huvudsakligen sker jakten i grupp men trots allt lyckas bara var femte försök.

    Hannar deltar bara i enskilda fall vid jakten, till exempel när större djur som buffel ska fällas. Bytet delas sedan efter flockens hierarki. Vuxna hannar är de första som får äta. Sedan följer honorna och till slut ungarna. Ofta förekommer strider vid kadavren som leder till sår hos motståndarna.

    Lejon jagar vanligen själv men kan också konsumera döda djur som antingen dött av naturliga orsaker (till exempel sjukdom) eller som redan dödats av andra rovdjur som leopard eller gepard.[26] Det förekommer till och med att lejon angriper hyenor för att komma åt deras byte. Lejon håller konstant utkik efter gamar som oftast är ett tecken på att ett djur nyligen dött eller ett djur som håller på att dö. Ett lejon kan konsumera upp till 33 kg i en enda måltid.[31] En vuxen lejoninna kräver i genomsnitt cirka 5 kg kött per dag, en hane cirka 7 kg.[32] Om tillfället finns så dricker lejonet efter varje jakt och varje dag vatten.[26]

    Kopulation hos lejon sker bara när honan är parningsberedd. Dessa perioder varar ungefär fyra dagar.[12] Efter dräktigheten som varar cirka 3,5 till 4 månader lämnar honan flocken och föder en till sex ungar (i genomsnitt tre) som har en vikt av ungefär 1,5 kg och en kroppslängd som ligger vid 50 cm.[12] Under de följande sex till åtta veckorna diar honan ungarna i ett gömställe. Ligger tillflyktsorten avsides från flocken så jagar honan ensam. Vid dessa tillfällen stannar ungarna upp till 48 timmar ensamma i gömstället. Under tiden består faran att ungarna blir upptäckta av hyenor och andra rovdjur. Efter åtta veckor introducerar honan sina ungar i flocken. De blir nästan alltid accepterade på en gång.

    Senare får ungarna di inte bara av sin egen moder utan även av andra honor i flocken. Efter ungefär sex månader slutar honan att ge di och efter två år är ungarna självständiga. Medellivslängden för lejon ligger mellan 14 och 20 år men oftast är det bara honor som uppnår denna ålder. Hannar blir i naturen på grund av de beskrivna omständigheterna mellan 7 och 12 år gamla. Viktig är också i vilket område lejonet lever. I skyddade regioner som Kruger nationalpark blir djuret mellan 12 och 14 år gammalt men utanför dessa parker eller reservaten når de högst 8 års ålder.[33] Individer i djurparker har däremot blivit upp till 34 år gamla.

    Lejon är kapabla att döda andra rovdjur såsom leopard, gepard, krokodil, hyenor och vildhundar . Till skillnad från de flesta andra kattdjur äter de sällan upp sina konkurrenter efter att ha dödat dem [34].

    Lejon ignorerar vanligtvis hyenor såvida det inte finns mat de kan stjäla eller om de blir trakasserade av dem. Relationen mellan lejon och hyenor är mycket speciell för båda arter. I tester har man kunnat visa att när en människa spelar upp ljud av hyenor som äter följer lejon snabbt efter. Man har även kunnat påvisa att tama hyenor, som aldrig träffat ett lejon, blir nervösa och uppspelta vid lukten av ett lejon.[35]

    När hyenorna äter sitt byte och sedan konfronteras av lejon kommer hyenorna antingen lämna platsen eller tålmodigt vänta på ett avstånd om 30-100 meter tills lejonen ätit klart [36]. I vissa fall är hyenorna djärva nog att äta tillsammans med lejonen och kan ibland till och med tvinga bort lejon från sitt byte [37]. Hyenor dominerar oftast över lejon om hyenorna är fyra gånger fler, men aldrig när lejonhannar är i närheten [38][39]. Båda arter kan agera aggressivt mot den andra även om någon direkt anledning inte finns. Lejon kan attackera en hyena utan anledning, och det finns dokument där lejonhannar aktivt sökt upp hyenor och dödat dem utan att äta dem [40]. I Etosha kan så mycket som 71% av hyenors dödstal bero på lejon [41]. Det har hänt att lejonflockar och hyeneklaner brutit ut i fullskaliga krig. Ett exempel är från 1999 i Etiopien där sex lejon och 35 hyenor dödades under en tvåveckorsperiod [42].

    Nilkrokodilen är också en konkurrent till lejon och det förekommer att de dödar varandra.[43][44] Lejon, framförallt lejonhannarna, är också fientligt inställda till leoparder och dödar dem om tillfälle ges.

    Lejonet räknas till “Big Five”, de fem mest framträdande arterna i Afrika.[45]

    I stora delar
    av Afrika minskar antalet lejon snabbt men det finns geografiska skillnader. I Väst-
    och Centralafrika minskar stammen kraftigt och kommer att minska med
    ytterligare femtio procent under de kommande två decennierna om inget görs för
    att bevara stammen. Lejonstammen minskar också, om än mindre dramatiskt, i
    Östafrika. Däremot ökar populationerna i fyra länder: Botswana, Namibia,
    Sydafrika och Zimbabwe.[46]

    Som för nästan alla stora djur i Afrika är det största hotet för lejon människan som bedriver jakt på dem. På grund av flera skyddsåtgärder som har införts under de senaste åren har omfånget av jakten minskat betydligt.

    Ett annat problem är sjukdomar. 1995 beskrevs för första gången ett fall av tuberkulos hos lejon. Senare var nästan 90 % av populationen i södra delen av Kruger nationalparken infekterade. Sjukdomen fick lejonen av bytesdjur som bufflar. Mellan 60 och 70 procent av alla afrikanska lejon bär ett virus som kallas FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) och som liknar HIV hos människor.

    Uppskattningsvis lever mellan 16 000 och 30 000 vilda lejon i Afrika. Internationella naturvårdsunionen (IUCN) ansåg 2004 att beståndet minskade med 30 till 50 procent under de föregående 20 åren.[1] I några skyddszoner i östra och södra Afrika finns däremot goda tecken för lejonets framtid. Lejonet (Panthera leo) är kategoriserat som sårbart (VU) av IUCN.

    Det asiatiska lejonet (Panthera leo leo) listas med omkring 350 individer som starkt hotat (Endangered).[47]

    Redan jägarna under aurignacienkulturen för mer än 30 000 år sedan avbildade lejon.[14] Till de mest imponerande konstverken från denna tid hör en figur gjord av mammutelfenben, som även räknas som en av de äldsta skulpturerna i människans historia. Figuren, som hittades i en grotta i Baden-Württemberg, är 30 centimeter hög och föreställer den så kallade ”lejonmänniskan”, som har en människas kropp och ett grottlejons huvud. Den avbildar troligtvis en gudomlighet.
    Även i den tecknade filmen Lejonkungen från Walt Disney Feature Animation så avbildas lejonet som ett mäktigt djur.

    I många kulturer har lejonet ställningen som “djurens kung”. Det sammanhänger med en tidig kristen avhandling om djursymbolik med namnet Physiologus, som hade stort inflytande på västerländsk kultur. Det visar sig exempelvis genom det stora antalet vapen som avbildar lejon. Till exempel förekommer lejon i Sveriges riksvapen. Att djuret var känt i Europa sammanhänger med det faktum att det tidigare förekom runt Medelhavet. I den grekiska mytologin uppträder lejon i olika funktioner, exempelvis var det nemeiska lejonet ett människoätande monster och en av Herakles tolv uppgifter bestod av att döda djuret. I en fabel av Aisopos drar hjälten Androkles, en förrymd slav, en tagg ur ett lejons fot. När han senare bestraffas genom att kastas i lejongropen för att bli uppäten blir han igenkänd och lejonet skonar honom.
    I boken Trollkarlen från Oz blir huvudpersonen Dorothy vän med ett fegt lejon som vill ha mod och kunna bli “djurens kung”.

    I flera antika kulturer spelar lejonet en viktig roll. I Egypten avbildade man faraoner som sfinxer, lejon med människohuvud. Det mest kända exemplet är sfinxen i Giza. Förutom faraonernas lejongestalter dyrkades gudinnor som Sekhmet och Bastet som hade ett lejonhuvud.[48] Dessutom fanns i den egyptiska mytologin en gudomlighet för rikedom, Dedun, som ibland framställdes som lejon.

    På norra stjärnhimlen finns två stjärnbilder, Lejonet och Lilla lejonet. Den första ska vara en inkarnation av det nemeiska lejonet, medan den andra är en nyskapelse från 1600-talet.

    Att lejonet även idag betraktas som mäktigt och starkt ser man genom att härskare benämner sig efter djuret. Den afghanske krigaren Ahmad Shah Massoud kallas av sina anhängare ”Lejonet av Panshir” och den etiopiske kejsaren Haile Selassie hade namnet ”Lejonet av Juda”, vilket också är en benämning på Kristus/Messias i Uppenbarelseboken i Bibeln.

    Lejon får ej längre hållas som sällskapsdjur i Sverige, utan hålls bara i djurparker. Under år 2010 fanns afrikanska lejon i Borås djurpark, Kolmårdens djurpark och Ölands djurpark. På Parken Zoo i Eskilstuna finns asiatiska lejon. Alla rovdjur förbjöds på cirkus i Sverige under 1960-talet.

    Ett av de tidigare lejonen i Sverige kom till landet 1731, som gåva från bejen av Alger till Fredrik I. Det hölls i bur på Lejonslätten (vid nuvarande Nordiska museet). Man har tidigare trott att detta lejon varit identiskt med det bekanta uppstoppade lejon som finns på Gripsholms slott, men senare efterforskningar har visat att detta inte är möjligt då Fredrik I redan 1732 skänkte lejonet vidare till kurfursten av Sachsen[förtydliga].[49]

    lion species

    I Afrika blir betydligt fler människor offer för flodhästar än för lejon. Även leoparden betraktas som farligare för människor än denna storkatt. Trots allt finns olika fall förtecknade där lejon har bedrivit jakt på människor. Till de mest kända fallen hör två lejon som 1898 dödade flera indiska och afrikanska arbetare i före detta Brittiska Östafrika, som idag är Kenya. Arbetarna var anställda för att bygga en bro för järnvägen. Det påstås att 135 människor föll offer för dessa lejon,[52] men enligt nyare undersökningar var det “bara” omkring 35 personer som blev uppätna.[53][54]

    Ledaren för byggprojektet, den brittiska överstelöjtnanten John Henry Patterson, behövde nio månader för att upphitta och skjuta de två lejonen. Lejonen var två individer av hankön som saknade man, men var ovanligt stora. De hade en längd på 295 resp. 290 centimeter och en mankhöjd på 120 resp. 115 centimeter. Händelserna vid brobygget har inspirerat till två Hollywoodproduktioner: en film från 1952, som också var den första tredimensionella filmen, med det engelska namnet “Bwana Devil”, och en från 1996 med titeln “The Ghost and the Darkness”. Båda lejonen finns uppstoppade i Field Museum of Natural History i Chicago.

    Lejonet är en vanlig symbol inom heraldiken. Det heraldiska lejonet avbildas normalt upprest, alltså i profil och stående på bakbenen. Andra vanliga poser är gående, alltså med tre tassar på marken och högra framtassen höjd, och springande.[55] Ett gående lejon med hitvänt ansikte benämns ibland leopard.[56]

    Panthera LeoDownloads-icon

    Molecular phylogeny of the extinct cave lion Panthera leo spelaeaDownloads-icon


    ”Panthera leo”Downloads-icon

    The lion (Panthera leo) is a large cat of the genus Panthera native to Africa and India. It has a muscular, deep-chested body, short, rounded head, round ears, and a hairy tuft at the end of its tail. It is sexually dimorphic; adult male lions are larger than females and have a prominent mane. It is a social species, forming groups called prides. A lion’s pride consists of a few adult males, related females, and cubs. Groups of female lions usually hunt together, preying mostly on large ungulates. The lion is an apex and keystone predator; although some lions scavenge when opportunities occur and have been known to hunt humans, the species typically does not.

    Typically, the lion inhabits grasslands and savannas. It is usually more diurnal than other wild cats, but when persecuted, it adapts to being active at night and at twilight. During the Neolithic period, the lion ranged throughout Africa, Southeast Europe, the Caucasus, and Western and South Asia, but it has been reduced to fragmented populations in sub-Saharan Africa and one population in western India. It has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1996 because populations in African countries have declined by about 43% since the early 1990s. Lion populations are untenable outside designated protected areas. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are the greatest causes for concern.

    One of the most widely recognised animal symbols in human culture, the lion has been extensively depicted in sculptures and paintings, on national flags, and in contemporary films and literature. Lions have been kept in menageries since the time of the Roman Empire and have been a key species sought for exhibition in zoological gardens across the world since the late 18th century. Cultural depictions of lions were prominent in Ancient Egypt, and depictions have occurred in virtually all ancient and medieval cultures in the lion’s historic and current range.

    lion species

    The word ‘lion’ is derived from Latin: leo[4] and Ancient Greek: λέων (leon).[5] The word lavi (Hebrew: לָבִיא‎) may also be related.[6] The generic name Panthera is traceable to the classical Latin word ‘panthēra’ and the ancient Greek word πάνθηρ ‘panther’.[7] Panthera is phonetically similar to the Sanskrit word पाण्डर pând-ara meaning ‘pale yellow, whitish, white’.[8]

    Felis leo was the scientific name used by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, who described the lion in his work Systema Naturae.[3] The genus name Panthera was coined by Lorenz Oken in 1816.[13] Between the mid-18th and mid-20th centuries, 26 lion specimens were described and proposed as subspecies, of which 11 were recognised as valid in 2005.[1] They were distinguished mostly by the size and colour of their manes and skins.[14]

    In the 19th and 20th centuries, several lion type specimens were described and proposed as subspecies, with about a dozen recognised as valid taxa until 2017.[1]
    Between 2008 and 2016, IUCN Red List assessors used only two subspecific names: P. l. leo for African lion populations, and P. l. persica for the Asiatic lion population.[2][15][16] In 2017, the Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group revised lion taxonomy, and recognises two subspecies based on results of several phylogeographic studies on lion evolution, namely:[17]

    However, there seems to be some degree of overlap between both groups in northern Central Africa. DNA analysis from a more recent study indicates, that Central African lions are derived from of both northern and southern lions, as they cluster with P. leo leo in mtDNA-based phylogenies whereas their genomic DNA indicates a closer relationship with P. leo melanochaita.[20]

    Lion samples from some parts of the Ethiopian Highlands cluster genetically with those from Cameroon and Chad, while lions from other areas of Ethiopia cluster with samples from East Africa. Researchers therefore assume Ethiopia is a contact zone between the two subspecies.[21]
    Genome-wide data of a wild-born historical lion sample from Sudan showed that it clustered with P. l. leo in mtDNA-based phylogenies, but with a high affinity to P. l. melanochaita. This result suggested that the taxonomic position of lions in Central Africa may require revision.[22]

    Other lion subspecies or sister species to the modern lion existed in prehistoric times:[23]

  • 1 billion divided by 12
  • The Panthera lineage is estimated to have genetically diverged from the common ancestor of the Felidae around 9.32 to 4.47 million years ago to 11.75 to 0.97 million years ago,[9][36][37]
    and the geographic origin of the genus is most likely northern Central Asia.[38]
    Results of analyses differ in the phylogenetic relationship of the lion; it was thought to form a sister group with the jaguar (P. onca) that diverged 3.46 to 1.22 million years ago,[9] but also with the leopard (P. pardus) that diverged 3.1 to 1.95 million years ago[11][12] to 4.32 to 0.02 million years ago. Hybridisation between lion and snow leopard (P. uncia) ancestors possibly continued until about 2.1 million years ago.[37]
    The lion-leopard clade was distributed in the Asian and African Palearctic since at least the early Pliocene.[38] The earliest fossils recognisable as lions were found at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and are estimated to be up to 2 million years old.[36]

    Estimates for the divergence time of the modern and cave lion lineages range from 529,000 to 392,000 years ago based on mutation rate per generation time of the modern lion. There is no evidence for gene flow between the two lineages, indicating that they did not share the same geographic area.[22] The Eurasian and American cave lions became extinct at the end of the last glacial period without mitochondrial descendants on other continents.[30][39][40] The modern lion was probably widely distributed in Africa during the Middle Pleistocene and started to diverge in sub-Saharan Africa during the Late Pleistocene. Lion populations in East and Southern Africa became separated from populations in West and North Africa when the equatorial rainforest expanded 183,500 to 81,800 years ago.[41]
    They shared a common ancestor probably between 98,000 and 52,000 years ago.[22]
    Due to the expansion of the Sahara between 83,100 and 26,600 years ago, lion populations in West and North Africa became separated. As the rainforest decreased and thus gave rise to more open habitats, lions moved from West to Central Africa. Lions from North Africa dispersed to southern Europe and Asia between 38,800 and 8,300 years ago.[41]

    Extinction of lions in southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East interrupted gene flow between lion populations in Asia and Africa. Genetic evidence revealed numerous mutations in lion samples from East and Southern Africa, which indicates that this group has a longer evolutionary history than genetically less diverse lion samples from Asia and West and Central Africa.[42]
    A whole genome-wide sequence of lion samples showed that samples from West Africa shared alleles with samples from Southern Africa, and samples from Central Africa shared alleles with samples from Asia. This phenomenon indicates that Central Africa was a melting pot of lion populations after they had become isolated, possibly migrating through corridors in the Nile Basin during the early Holocene.[22]

    In zoos, lions have been bred with tigers to create hybrids for the curiosity of visitors or for scientific purpose.[43][44] The liger is bigger than a lion and a tiger, whereas most tigons are relatively small compared to their parents because of reciprocal gene effects.[45][46] The leopon is a hybrid between a lion and leopard.[47]

    The lion is a muscular, deep-chested cat with a short, rounded head, a reduced neck and round ears. Its fur varies in colour from light buff to silvery grey, yellowish red and dark brown. The colours of the underparts are generally lighter. A new-born lion has dark spots, which fade as the cub reaches adulthood, although faint spots often may still be seen on the legs and underparts. The lion is the only member of the cat family that displays obvious sexual dimorphism. Males have broader heads and a prominent mane that grows downwards and backwards covering most of the head, neck, shoulders, and chest. The mane is typically brownish and tinged with yellow, rust and black hairs.[48][49]

    The tail of all lions ends in a dark, hairy tuft that in some lions conceals an approximately 5 mm (0.20 in)-long, hard “spine” or “spur” that is formed from the final, fused sections of tail bone. The functions of the spur are unknown. The tuft is absent at birth and develops at around .mw-parser-output .frac{white-space:nowrap}.mw-parser-output .frac .num,.mw-parser-output .frac .den{font-size:80%;line-height:0;vertical-align:super}.mw-parser-output .frac .den{vertical-align:sub}.mw-parser-output .sr-only{border:0;clip:rect(0,0,0,0);height:1px;margin:-1px;overflow:hidden;padding:0;position:absolute;width:1px}5+1⁄2 months of age. It is readily identifiable by the age of seven months.[50]

    Of the living felid species, the lion is rivaled only by the tiger in length, weight, and height at the shoulder.[51] Its skull is very similar to that of the tiger, although the frontal region is usually more depressed and flattened, and has a slightly shorter postorbital region and broader nasal openings than those of the tiger. Due to the amount of skull variation in the two species, usually only the structure of the lower jaw can be used as a reliable indicator of species.[52][53]

    Skeletal muscles of the lion make up 58.8% of its body weight and represents the highest percentage of muscles among mammals.[54][55]

    The size and weight of adult lions varies across global range and habitats.[56][57][58][59] Accounts of a few individuals that were larger than average exist from Africa and India.[48][60][61][62]

    The male lion’s mane is the most recognisable feature of the species.[14] It may have evolved around 320,000–190,000 years ago.[64] It starts growing when lions are about a year old. Mane colour varies and darkens with age; research shows its colour and size are influenced by environmental factors such as average ambient temperature. Mane length apparently signals fighting success in male–male relationships; darker-maned individuals may have longer reproductive lives and higher offspring survival, although they suffer in the hottest months of the year. The presence, absence, colour and size of the mane are associated with genetic precondition, sexual maturity, climate and testosterone production; the rule of thumb is that a darker, fuller mane indicates a healthier animal. In Serengeti National Park, female lions favour males with dense, dark manes as mates. Male lions usually aim for the backs or hindquarters of rivals, rather than their necks.[65][66] Cool ambient temperature in European and North American zoos may result in a heavier mane.[67] Asiatic lions usually have sparser manes than average African lions.[68]

    Almost all male lions in Pendjari National Park are either maneless or have very short manes.[69] Maneless lions have also been reported in Senegal, in Sudan’s Dinder National Park and in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya.[70] The original male white lion from Timbavati in South Africa was also maneless. The hormone testosterone has been linked to mane growth; castrated lions often have little to no mane because the removal of the gonads inhibits testosterone production.[71] Increased testosterone may be the cause of maned lionesses reported in northern Botswana.[72]

    The white lion is a rare morph with a genetic condition called leucism which is caused by a double recessive allele. It is not albino; it has normal pigmentation in the eyes and skin. White lions have occasionally been encountered in and around Kruger National Park and the adjacent Timbavati Private Game Reserve in eastern South Africa. They were removed from the wild in the 1970s, thus decreasing the white lion gene pool. Nevertheless, 17 births have been recorded in five prides between 2007 and 2015.[73] White lions are selected for breeding in captivity.[74] They have reportedly been bred in camps in South Africa for use as trophies to be killed during canned hunts.[75]

    African lions live in scattered populations across Sub-Saharan Africa. The lion prefers grassy plains and savannahs, scrub bordering rivers and open woodlands with bushes. It is absent from rainforests and rarely enters closed forests. On Mount Elgon, the lion has been recorded up to an elevation of 3,600 m (11,800 ft) and close to the snow line on Mount Kenya.[48] Lions occur in savannah grasslands with scattered acacia trees, which serve as shade.[76] The Asiatic lion now survives only in and around Gir National Park in Gujarat, western India. Its habitat is a mixture of dry savannah forest and very dry, deciduous scrub forest.[15]

    In Africa, the range of the lion originally spanned most of the central rainforest zone and the Sahara desert.[77] In the 1960s, it became extinct in North Africa, except in the southern part of Sudan.[78][79][80]

    In southern Europe and Asia, the lion once ranged in regions where climatic conditions supported an abundance of prey.[81] In Greece, it was common as reported by Herodotus in 480 BC; it was considered rare by 300 BC and extirpated by AD 100.[48] It was present in the Caucasus until the 10th century.[53] It lived in Palestine until the Middle Ages, and in Southwest Asia until the late 19th century. By the late 19th century, it had been extirpated in most of Turkey.[82] The last live lion in Iran was sighted in 1942 about 65 km (40 mi) northwest of Dezful,[83] although the corpse of a lioness was found on the banks of the Karun river in Khūzestān Province in 1944.[84] It once ranged from Sind and Punjab in Pakistan to Bengal and the Narmada River in central India.[85]

    Lions spend much of their time resting; they are inactive for about twenty hours per day.[86] Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socialising, grooming and defecating. Intermittent bursts of activity continue until dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and fifty minutes eating.[87]

    The lion is the most social of all wild felid species, living in groups of related individuals with their offspring. Such a group is called a “pride”. Groups of male lions are called “coalitions”.[88] Females form the stable social unit in a pride and do not tolerate outside females.[89] Membership changes only with the births and deaths of lionesses,[90] although some females leave and become nomadic.[91] The average pride consists of around 15 lions, including several adult females and up to four males and their cubs of both sexes. Large prides, consisting of up to 30 individuals, have been observed.[92] The sole exception to this pattern is the Tsavo lion pride that always has just one adult male.[93] Male cubs are excluded from their maternal pride when they reach maturity at around two or three years of age.[91]

    Some lions are “nomads” that range widely and move around sporadically, either in pairs or alone.[88] Pairs are more frequent among related males who have been excluded from their birth pride. A lion may switch lifestyles; nomads can become residents and vice versa.[94] Interactions between prides and nomads tend to be hostile, although pride females in estrus allow nomadic males to approach them.[95] Males spend years in a nomadic phase before gaining residence in a pride.[96] A study undertaken in the Serengeti National Park revealed that nomadic coalitions gain residency at between 3.5 and 7.3 years of age.[97] In Kruger National Park, dispersing male lions move more than 25 km (16 mi) away from their natal pride in search of their own territory. Female lions stay closer to their natal pride. Therefore, female lions in an area are more closely related to each other than male lions in the same area.[98]

    The area occupied by a pride is called a “pride area” whereas that occupied by a nomad is a “range”.[88] Males associated with a pride tend to stay on the fringes, patrolling their territory. The reasons for the development of sociality in lionesses—the most pronounced in any cat species—are the subject of much debate. Increased hunting success appears to be an obvious reason, but this is uncertain upon examination; coordinated hunting allows for more successful predation but also ensures non-hunting members reduce per capita calorific intake. Some females, however, take a role raising cubs that may be left alone for extended periods. Members of the pride tend to regularly play the same role in hunts and hone their skills. The health of the hunters is the primary need for the survival of the pride; hunters are the first to consume the prey at the site it is taken. Other benefits include possible kin selection; sharing food within the family; protecting the young, maintaining territory and individual insurance against injury and hunger.[60]

    Both males and females defend the pride against intruders, but the male lion is better-suited for this purpose due to its stockier, more powerful build. Some individuals consistently lead the defence against intruders, while others lag behind.[99] Lions tend to assume specific roles in the pride; slower-moving individuals may provide other valuable services to the group.[100] Alternatively, there may be rewards associated with being a leader that fends off intruders; the rank of lionesses in the pride is reflected in these responses.[101] The male or males associated with the pride must defend their relationship with the pride from outside males who may attempt to usurp them.[94]

    Asiatic lion prides differ in group composition. Male Asiatic lions are solitary or associate with up to three males, forming a loose pride while females associate with up to 12 other females, forming a stronger pride together with their cubs. Female and male lions associate only when mating.[102] Coalitions of males hold territory for a longer time than single lions. Males in coalitions of three or four individuals exhibit a pronounced hierarchy, in which one male dominates the others and mates more frequently.[103]

    The lion is a generalist hypercarnivore[104] and is considered to be both an apex and keystone predator due to its wide prey spectrum.[105] Its prey consists mainly of mammals—particularly ungulates—weighing 190–550 kg (420–1,210 lb) with a preference for blue wildebeest, plains zebra, African buffalo, gemsbok and giraffe. Lions also hunt common warthog depending on availability, although the species is below the preferred weight range.[106] In India, sambar deer and chital are the most commonly recorded wild prey,[49][106][107] while domestic livestock may contribute significantly to their diet.[107] They usually avoid fully grown adult elephants, rhinoceroses and hippopotamus and small prey like dik-dik, hyrax, hare and monkey.[106][108] Unusual prey include porcupines and small reptiles. Lions kill other predators such as leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena but seldom consume them.[109]

    Young lions first display stalking behaviour at around three months of age, although they do not participate in hunting until they are almost a year old and begin to hunt effectively when nearing the age of two.[110] Single lions are capable of bringing down zebra and wildebeest, while larger prey like buffalo and giraffe are riskier.[94]
    In Chobe National Park, large prides have been observed hunting African bush elephants up to around 15 years old in exceptional cases, with the victims being calves, juveniles, and even subadults.[111][112] In typical hunts, each lioness has a favoured position in the group, either stalking prey on the “wing”, then attacking, or moving a smaller distance in the centre of the group and capturing prey fleeing from other lionesses. Males attached to prides do not usually participate in group hunting.[113] Some evidence suggests, however, that males are just as successful as females; they are typically solo hunters who ambush prey in small bushland.[114]

    Lions are not particularly known for their stamina; for instance, a lioness’ heart comprises only 0.57% of her body weight and a male’s is about 0.45% of his body weight, whereas a hyena’s heart comprises almost 1% of its body weight.[115] Thus, lions run quickly only in short bursts[116] and need to be close to their prey before starting the attack. They take advantage of factors that reduce visibility; many kills take place near some form of cover or at night.[117] The lion’s attack is short and powerful; they attempt to catch prey with a fast rush and final leap. They usually pull it down by the rump and kill by a strangling bite to the throat. They also kill prey by enclosing its mouth and nostrils in their jaws.[118]

    Lions typically consume prey at the location of the hunt but sometimes drag large prey into cover.[119] They tend to squabble over kills, particularly the males. Cubs suffer most when food is scarce but otherwise all pride members eat their fill, including old and crippled lions, which can live on leftovers.[94] Large kills are shared more widely among pride members.[120] An adult lioness requires an average of about 5 kg (11 lb) of meat per day while males require about 7 kg (15 lb).[121] Lions gorge themselves and eat up to 30 kg (66 lb) in one session;[84] if it is unable to consume all of the kill, it rests for a few hours before continuing to eat. On hot days, the pride retreats to shade with one or two males standing guard.[119] Lions defend their kills from scavengers such as vultures and hyenas.[94]

    Lions scavenge on carrion when the opportunity arises; they scavenge animals dead from natural causes such as disease or those that were killed by other predators. Scavenging lions keep a constant lookout for circling vultures, which indicate the death or distress of an animal.[122] Most carrion on which both hyenas and lions feed upon are killed by hyenas rather than lions.[59] Carrion is thought to provide a large part of lion diet.[123]

    Lions and spotted hyenas occupy a similar ecological niche and where they coexist they compete for prey and carrion; a review of data across several studies indicates a dietary overlap of 58.6%.[124] Lions typically ignore spotted hyenas unless the lions are on a kill or are being harassed by the hyenas, while the latter tend to visibly react to the presence of lions, with or without the presence of food. Lions seize the kills of spotted hyenas; in the Ngorongoro crater it is common for lions to subsist largely on kills stolen from hyenas, causing the hyenas to increase their kill rate.[125] In Botswana’s Chobe National Park, the situation is reversed; hyenas frequently challenge lions and steal their kills, obtaining food from 63% of all lion kills.[126] When confronted on a kill by lions, spotted hyenas may either leave or wait patiently at a distance of 30–100 m (100–330 ft) until the lions have finished.[127] Hyenas are bold enough to feed alongside lions and to force the lions off a kill. The two species attack one another even when there is no food involved for no apparent reason.[128][129] Lion predation can account for up to 71% of hyena deaths in Etosha National Park. Spotted hyenas have adapted by frequently mobbing lions that enter their territories.[130] When the lion population in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve declined, the spotted hyena population increased rapidly.[131] Experiments on captive spotted hyenas show that specimens without prior experience with lions act indifferently to the sight of them, but will react fearfully to lion scent.[125]

    Lions tend to dominate cheetahs and leopards, steal their kills and kill their cubs and even adults when given the chance.[132] Cheetahs in particular often lose their kills to lions or other predators.[133] A study in the Serengeti ecosystem revealed that lions killed at least 17 of 125 cheetah cubs born between 1987 and 1990.[134] Cheetahs avoid their competitors by using different temporal and habitat niches.[135] Leopards are able to take refuge in trees; lionesses, however, occasionally attempt to retrieve leopard kills from trees.[136] Lions similarly dominate African wild dogs, taking their kills and preying on young and rarely adult dogs. Population densities of wild dogs are low in areas where lions are more abundant.[137] However, there are a few reported cases of old and wounded lions falling prey to wild dogs.[138][139] Lions also charge at Nile crocodiles; depending on the size of the crocodile and the lion, either animal can lose their kills to the other. Lions have been observed killing crocodiles that ventured onto land.[140] Crocodiles may also kill and eat lions, evidenced by the occasional lion claw found in crocodile stomachs.[141]

    Most lionesses reproduce by the time they are four years of age.[142] Lions do not mate at a specific time of year and the females are polyestrous.[143] Like those of other cats, the male lion’s penis has spines that point backward. During withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake the walls of the female’s vagina, which may cause ovulation.[144][145] A lioness may mate with more than one male when she is in heat.[146] Generation length of the lion is about seven years.[147] The average gestation period is around 110 days;[143] the female gives birth to a litter of between one and four cubs in a secluded den, which may be a thicket, a reed-bed, a cave, or some other sheltered area, usually away from the pride. She will often hunt alone while the cubs are still helpless, staying relatively close to the den.[148] Lion cubs are born blind; their eyes open around seven days after birth. They weigh 1.2–2.1 kg (2.6–4.6 lb) at birth and are almost helpless, beginning to crawl a day or two after birth and walking around three weeks of age.[149] To avoid a buildup of scent attracting the attention of predators, the lioness moves her cubs to a new den site several times a month, carrying them one-by-one by the nape of the neck.[148]

    lion species

    Usually, the mother does not integrate herself and her cubs back into the pride until the cubs are six to eight weeks old.[148] Sometimes the introduction to pride life occurs earlier, particularly if other lionesses have given birth at about the same time.[94][150] When first introduced to the rest of the pride, lion cubs lack confidence when confronted with adults other than their mother. They soon begin to immerse themselves in the pride life, however, playing among themselves or attempting to initiate play with the adults.[150] Lionesses with cubs of their own are more likely to be tolerant of another lioness’s cubs than lionesses without cubs. Male tolerance of the cubs varies—one male could patiently let the cubs play with his tail or his mane, while another may snarl and bat the cubs away.[151]

    Pride lionesses often synchronise their reproductive cycles and communal rearing and suckling of the young, which suckle indiscriminately from any or all of the nursing females in the pride. The synchronisation of births is advantageous because the cubs grow to being roughly the same size and have an equal chance of survival, and sucklings are not dominated by older cubs.[94][150] Weaning occurs after six or seven months. Male lions reach maturity at about three years of age and at four to five years are capable of challenging and displacing adult males associated with another pride. They begin to age and weaken at between 10 and 15 years of age at the latest.[152]

    When one or more new males oust the previous males associated with a pride, the victors often kill any existing young cubs, perhaps because females do not become fertile and receptive until their cubs mature or die. Females often fiercely defend their cubs from a usurping male but are rarely successful unless a group of three or four mothers within a pride join forces against the male.[153] Cubs also die from starvation and abandonment, and predation by leopards, hyenas and wild dogs.[139][94] Up to 80% of lion cubs will die before the age of two.[154] Both male and female lions may be ousted from prides to become nomads, although most females usually remain with their birth pride. When a pride becomes too large, however, the youngest generation of female cubs may be forced to leave to find their own territory. When a new male lion takes over a pride, adolescents both male and female may be evicted.[155] Lions of both sexes may be involved in group homosexual and courtship activities; males will also head-rub and roll around with each other before simulating sex together.[156][157]

    Although adult lions have no natural predators, evidence suggests most die violently from attacks by humans or other lions.[158] Lions often inflict serious injuries on members of other prides they encounter in territorial disputes or members of the home pride when fighting at a kill.[159] Crippled lions and cubs may fall victim to hyenas and leopards or be trampled by buffalo or elephants. Careless lions may be maimed when hunting prey.[160]

    Ticks commonly infest the ears, neck and groin regions of lions.[161][162] Adult forms of several tapeworm species of the genus Taenia have been isolated from lion intestines, having been ingested as larvae in antelope meat.[163] Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater were afflicted by an outbreak of stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans) in 1962; this resulted in lions becoming emaciated and covered in bloody, bare patches. Lions sought unsuccessfully to evade the biting flies by climbing trees or crawling into hyena burrows; many died or migrated and the local population dropped from 70 to 15 individuals.[164] A more recent outbreak in 2001 killed six lions.[165]

    Captive lions have been infected with canine distemper virus (CDV) since at least the mid 1970s.[166] CDV is spread by domestic dogs and other carnivores; a 1994 outbreak in Serengeti National Park resulted in many lions developing neurological symptoms such as seizures. During the outbreak, several lions died from pneumonia and encephalitis.[167] Feline immunodeficiency virus and lentivirus also affect captive lions.[168][169]

    When resting, lion socialisation occurs through a number of behaviours; the animal’s expressive movements are highly developed. The most common peaceful, tactile gestures are head rubbing and social licking,[170] which have been compared with the role of allogrooming among primates.[171] Head rubbing—nuzzling the forehead, face and neck against another lion—appears to be a form of greeting[172] and is seen often after an animal has been apart from others or after a fight or confrontation. Males tend to rub other males, while cubs and females rub females.[173] Social licking often occurs in tandem with head rubbing; it is generally mutual and the recipient appears to express pleasure. The head and neck are the most common parts of the body licked; this behaviour may have arisen out of utility because lions cannot lick these areas themselves.[174]

    Lions have an array of facial expressions and body postures that serve as visual gestures.[175] A common facial expression is the “grimace face” or flehmen response, which a lion makes when sniffing chemical signals and involves an open mouth with bared teeth, raised muzzle, wrinkled nose closed eyes and relaxed ears.[176] Lions also use chemical and visual marking; males will spray and scrape plots of ground and objects within the territory.[175]

    The lion’s repertoire of vocalisations is large; variations in intensity and pitch appear to be central to communication. Most lion vocalisations are variations of growling, snarling, meowing and roaring. Other sounds produced include purring, puffing, bleating and humming. Roaring is used to advertise its presence. Lions most often roar at night, a sound that can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometres (5.0 mi).[177] They tend to roar in a very characteristic manner starting with a few deep, long roars that subside into a series of shorter ones.[178][179]

    The lion is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.[2]

    Several large and well-managed protected areas in Africa host large lion populations. Where an infrastructure for wildlife tourism has been developed, cash revenue for park management and local communities is a strong incentive for lion conservation.[2] Most lions now live in East and Southern Africa; their numbers are rapidly decreasing, and fell by an estimated 30–50% in the late half of the 20th century. Primary causes of the decline include disease and human interference.[2] In 1975, it was estimated that since the 1950s, lion numbers had decreased by half to 200,000 or fewer.[180] Estimates of the African lion population range between 16,500 and 47,000 living in the wild in 2002–2004.[181][78]

    In the Republic of the Congo, Odzala-Kokoua National Park was considered a lion stronghold in the 1990s. By 2014, no lions were recorded in the protected area so the population is considered locally extinct.[182] The West African lion population is isolated from the one in Central Africa, with little or no exchange of breeding individuals. In 2015, it was estimated that this population consists of about 400 animals, including fewer than 250 mature individuals. They persist in three protected areas in the region, mostly in one population in the W A P protected area complex, shared by Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. This population is listed as Critically Endangered.[16] Field surveys in the WAP ecosystem revealed that lion occupancy is lowest in the W National Park, and higher in areas with permanent staff and thus better protection.[183]

    A population occurs in Cameroon’s Waza National Park, where between approximately 14 and 21 animals persisted as of 2009.[184] In addition, 50 to 150 lions are estimated to be present in Burkina Faso’s Arly-Singou ecosystem.[185] In 2015, an adult male lion and a female lion were sighted in Ghana’s Mole National Park. These were the first sightings of lions in the country in 39 years.[186] In the same year, a population of up to 200 lions that was previously thought to have been extirpated was filmed in the Alatash National Park, Ethiopia, close to the Sudanese border.[187][188]

    In 2005, Lion Conservation Strategies were developed for West and Central Africa, and or East and Southern Africa. The strategies seek to maintain suitable habitat, ensure a sufficient wild prey base for lions, reduce factors that lead to further fragmentation of populations, and make lion–human coexistence sustainable.[189][190]
    Lion depredation on livestock is significantly reduced in areas where herders keep livestock in improved enclosures. Such measures contribute to mitigating human–lion conflict.[191]

    The last refuge of the Asiatic lion population is the 1,412 km2 (545 sq mi) Gir National Park and surrounding areas in the region of Saurashtra or Kathiawar Peninsula in Gujarat State, India. The population has risen from approximately 180 lions in 1974 to about 400 in 2010.[192] It is geographically isolated, which can lead to inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity. Since 2008, the Asiatic lion has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.[15] By 2015, the population had grown to 523 individuals inhabiting an area of 7,000 km2 (2,700 sq mi) in Saurashtra.[193][194][195] The Asiatic Lion Census conducted in 2017 recorded about 650 individuals.[196]

    The presence of numerous human habitations close to the National Park results in conflict between lions, local people and their livestock.[197][193] Some consider the presence of lions a benefit, as they keep populations of crop damaging herbivores in check.[198] The establishment of a second, independent Asiatic lion population in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Madhya Pradesh was planned but in 2017, the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project seemed unlikely to be implemented.[199][200]

    Lions imported to Europe before the middle of the 19th century were possibly foremost Barbary lions from North Africa, or Cape lions from Southern Africa.[201]
    Another 11 animals thought to be Barbary lions kept in Addis Ababa Zoo are descendants of animals owned by Emperor Haile Selassie. WildLink International in collaboration with Oxford University launched an ambitious International Barbary Lion Project with the aim of identifying and breeding Barbary lions in captivity for eventual reintroduction into a national park in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.[202] However, a genetic analysis showed that the captive lions at Addis Ababa Zoo were not Barbary lions, but rather closely related to wild lions in Chad and Cameroon.[203]

    In 1982, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums started a Species Survival Plan for the Asiatic lion to increase its chances of survival. In 1987, it was found that most lions in North American zoos were hybrids between African and Asiatic lions.[204]
    Breeding programs need to note origins of the participating animals to avoid cross-breeding different subspecies and thus reducing their conservation value.[205]
    Captive breeding of lions was halted to eliminate individuals of unknown origin and pedigree. Wild-born lions were imported to American zoos from Africa between 1989 and 1995. Breeding was continued in 1998 in the frame of an African lion Species Survival Plan.[206]

    About 77% of the captive lions registered in the International Species Information System in 2006 were of unknown origin; these animals might have carried genes that are extinct in the wild and may therefore be important to the maintenance of the overall genetic variability of the lion.[67]

    Lions are part of a group of exotic animals that have been central to zoo exhibits since the late 18th century. Although many modern zoos are more selective about their exhibits,[207] there are more than 1,000 African and 100 Asiatic lions in zoos and wildlife parks around the world. They are considered an ambassador species and are kept for tourism, education and conservation purposes.[208] Lions can live over twenty years in captivity; a lion in Honolulu Zoo died at the age of 22 in August 2007.[209] His two sisters, born in 1986, also reached the age of 22.[210]

    The first European “zoos” spread among noble and royal families in the 13th century, and until the 17th century were called seraglios; at that time they came to be called menageries, an extension of the cabinet of curiosities. They spread from France and Italy during the Renaissance to the rest of Europe.[211] In England, although the seraglio tradition was less developed, lions were kept at the Tower of London in a seraglio established by King John in the 13th century;[212][213] this was probably stocked with animals from an earlier menagerie started in 1125 by Henry I at his hunting lodge in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, where according to William of Malmesbury lions had been stocked.[214]

    Lions were kept in cramped and squalid conditions at London Zoo until a larger lion house with roomier cages was built in the 1870s.[215] Further changes took place in the early 20th century when Carl Hagenbeck designed enclosures with concrete “rocks”, more open space and a moat instead of bars, more closely resembling a natural habitat. Hagenbeck designed lion enclosures for both Melbourne Zoo and Sydney’s Taronga Zoo; although his designs were popular, the use of bars and caged enclosures prevailed in many zoos until the 1960s.[216] In the late 20th century, larger, more natural enclosures and the use of wire mesh or laminated glass instead of lowered dens allowed visitors to come closer than ever to the animals; some attractions such as the Cat Forest/Lion Overlook of Oklahoma City Zoological Park placed the den on ground level, higher than visitors.[217]

    Lion taming has been part of both established circuses and individual acts such as Siegfried & Roy. The practice began in the early 19th century by Frenchman Henri Martin and American Isaac Van Amburgh, who both toured widely and whose techniques were copied by a number of followers.[218] Van Amburgh performed before Queen Victoria in 1838 when he toured Great Britain. Martin composed a pantomime titled Les Lions de Mysore (“the lions of Mysore”), an idea Amburgh quickly borrowed. These acts eclipsed equestrianism acts as the central display of circus shows and entered public consciousness in the early 20th century with cinema. In demonstrating the superiority of human over animal, lion taming served a purpose similar to animal fights of previous centuries.[218] The ultimate proof of a tamer’s dominance and control over a lion is demonstrated by the placing of the tamer’s head in the lion’s mouth. The now-iconic lion tamer’s chair was possibly first used by American Clyde Beatty (1903–1965).[219]

    Lion hunting has occurred since ancient times and was often a royal pastime; intended to demonstrate the power of the king over nature. The earliest surviving record of lion hunting is an ancient Egyptian inscription dated circa 1380 BC that mentions Pharaoh Amenhotep III killing 102 lions “with his own arrows” during the first ten years of his rule. The Assyrians would release captive lions in a reserved space for the king to hunt; this event would be watched by spectators as the king and his men, on horseback or chariots, killed the lions with arrows and spears. Lions were also hunted during the Mughal Empire, where Emperor Jahangir is said to have excelled at it.[220] In Ancient Rome, lions were kept by emperors for hunts, gladiator fights and executions.[221]

    The Maasai people have traditionally viewed the killing of lions as a rite of passage. Historically, lions were hunted by individuals, however, due to reduced lion populations, elders discourage solo lion hunts.[222] During the European colonisation of Africa in the 19th century, the hunting of lions was encouraged because they were considered as vermin and lion hides fetched £1 each.[223] The widely reproduced imagery of the heroic hunter chasing lions would dominate a large part of the century.[224] Trophy hunting of lions in recent years has been met with controversy; notably with the killing of Cecil the lion in mid-2015.[225]

    Lions do not usually hunt humans but some (usually males) seem to seek them out. One well-publicised case is the Tsavo maneaters; in 1898, 28 officially recorded railway workers building the Kenya-Uganda Railway were taken by lions over nine months during the construction of a bridge in Kenya.[226] The hunter who killed the lions wrote a book detailing the animals’ predatory behaviour; they were larger than normal and lacked manes, and one seemed to suffer from tooth decay. The infirmity theory, including tooth decay, is not favoured by all researchers; an analysis of teeth and jaws of man-eating lions in museum collections suggests that while tooth decay may explain some incidents, prey depletion in human-dominated areas is a more likely cause of lion predation on humans.[227] Sick or injured animals may be more prone to man-eating but the behaviour is not unusual, nor necessarily aberrant.[228]

    Lions’ proclivity for man-eating has been systematically examined. American and Tanzanian scientists report that man-eating behaviour in rural areas of Tanzania increased greatly from 1990 to 2005. At least 563 villagers were attacked and many eaten over this period. The incidents occurred near Selous National Park in Rufiji District and in Lindi Province near the Mozambican border. While the expansion of villages into bush country is one concern, the authors argue conservation policy must mitigate the danger because in this case, conservation contributes directly to human deaths. Cases in Lindi in which lions seize humans from the centres of substantial villages have been documented.[229] Another study of 1,000 people attacked by lions in southern Tanzania between 1988 and 2009 found that the weeks following the full moon, when there was less moonlight, were a strong indicator of increased night-time attacks on people.[230]

    According to Robert R. Frump, Mozambican refugees regularly crossing Kruger National Park, South Africa, at night are attacked and eaten by lions; park officials have said man-eating is a problem there. Frump said thousands may have been killed in the decades after apartheid sealed the park and forced refugees to cross the park at night. For nearly a century before the border was sealed, Mozambicans had regularly crossed the park in daytime with little harm.[231]

    The lion is one of the most widely recognised animal symbols in human culture. It has been extensively depicted in sculptures and paintings, on national flags, and in contemporary films and literature.[48] It appeared as a symbol for strength and nobility in cultures across Europe, Asia and Africa, despite incidents of attacks on people. The lion has been depicted as “king of the jungle” and “king of beasts”, and thus became a popular symbol for royalty and stateliness.[232] The lion is also used as a symbol of sporting teams.[233]

    In sub-Saharan Africa, the lion has been a common character in stories, proverbs and dances, but rarely featured in visual arts.[234] In some cultures, the lion symbolises power and royalty.[235] In the Swahili language, the lion is known as simba which also means “aggressive”, “king” and “strong”.[58] Some rulers had the word “lion” in their nickname. Sundiata Keita of the Mali Empire was called “Lion of Mali”.[236] The founder of the Waalo kingdom is said to have been raised by lions and returned to his people part-lion to unite them using the knowledge he learned from the lions.[235]

    In parts of West Africa, lions symbolised the top class of their social hierarchies.[235] In more heavily forested areas where lions were rare, the leopard represented the top of the hierarchy.[234] In parts of West and East Africa, the lion is associated with healing and is regarded as the link between seers and the supernatural. In other East African traditions, the lion is the symbol of laziness.[235] In much of African folklore, the lion is portrayed as having low intelligence and is easily tricked by other animals.[236]

    The ancient Egyptians portrayed several of their war deities as lionesses, which they revered as fierce hunters. Egyptian deities associated with lions include Sekhmet, Bast, Mafdet, Menhit, Pakhet and Tefnut.[232] These deities were often connected with the sun god Ra and his fierce heat, and their dangerous power was invoked to guard people or sacred places. The sphinx, a figure with a lion’s body and the head of a human or other creature, represented a pharaoh or deity who had taken on this protective role.[237]

    The lion was a prominent symbol in ancient Mesopotamia from Sumer up to Assyrian and Babylonian times, where it was strongly associated with kingship.[238] Lions were among the major symbols of the goddess Inanna/Ishtar.[239][240] The Lion of Babylon was the foremost symbol of the Babylonian Empire.[241] The Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal is a famous sequence of Assyrian palace reliefs from c. 640 BC, now in the British Museum.[242] The Lion of Judah is the biblical emblem of the tribe of Judah and the later Kingdom of Judah.[243] Lions are frequently mentioned in the Bible; notably in the Book of Daniel in which the eponymous hero refuses to worship King Darius and is forced to sleep in the lions’ den where he is miraculously unharmed (Dan 6). In the Book of Judges, Samson kills a lion as he travels to visit a Philistine woman.(Judg 14).[244]

    Indo-Persian chroniclers regarded the lion as keeper of order in the realm of animals. The Sanskrit word mrigendra signifies a lion as king of animals in general or deer in particular.[245]
    Narasimha, the man-lion, is one of ten avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu.[246] Singh is an ancient Indian vedic name meaning “lion”, dating back over 2,000 years. It was originally used only by Rajputs, a Hindu Kshatriya or military caste but is used by millions of Hindu Rajputs and more than twenty million Sikhs today.[247] The Lion Capital of Ashoka, erected by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century CE, depicts four lions standing back to back. It was made the National Emblem of India in 1950.[248] The lion is also symbolic for the Sinhalese people; the term derived from the Sanskrit Sinhala, meaning “of lions”[249] while a sword-wielding lion is the central figure on the national flag of Sri Lanka.[250]

    The lion is a common motif in Chinese art; it was first used in art during the late Spring and Autumn period (fifth or sixth century BC) and became more popular during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220) when imperial guardian lions started to be placed in front of imperial palaces for protection. Because lions have never been native to China, early depictions were somewhat unrealistic; after the introduction of Buddhist art to China in the Tang Dynasty after the sixth century AD, lions were usually depicted wingless with shorter, thicker bodies and curly manes.[251] The lion dance is a traditional dance in Chinese culture in which performers in lion costumes mimic a lion’s movements, often with musical accompaniment from cymbals, drums and gongs. They are performed at Chinese New Year, the August Moon Festival and other celebratory occasions for good luck.[252]

    Lion-headed figures and amulets were excavated in tombs in the Greek islands of Crete, Euboea, Rhodes, Paros and Chios. They are associated with the Egyptian deity Sekhmet and date to the early Iron Age between the 9th and 6th centuries BC.[253] The lion is featured in several of Aesop’s fables, notably The Lion and the Mouse.[254] The Nemean lion was symbolic in ancient Greece and Rome, represented as the constellation and zodiac sign Leo, and described in mythology, where it was killed and worn by the hero Heracles,[255] symbolising victory over death.[256] Lancelot and Gawain were also heroes slaying lions in the Middle Ages. In some medieval stories, lions were portrayed as allies and companions.[257] “Lion” was the nickname of several medieval warrior-rulers with a reputation for bravery, such as Richard the Lionheart.[232]

    Lions continue to appear in modern literature as characters including the messianic Aslan in the 1950 novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis,[258] and the comedic Cowardly Lion in L. Frank Baum’s 1900 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.[259] Lion symbolism was used from the advent of cinema; one of the most iconic and widely recognised lions is Leo, which has been the mascot for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios since the 1920s.[260] The 1966 film Born Free features Elsa the lioness and is based on the 1960 non-fiction book with the same title.[261] The lion’s role as king of the beasts has been used in the 1994 Disney animated feature film The Lion King.[262]

    Lions are frequently depicted on coats of arms, like on the coat of arms of Finland,[263] either as a device on shields or as supporters, but the lioness is used much less frequently.[264] The heraldic lion is particularly common in British arms. It is traditionally depicted in a great variety of attitudes, although within French heraldry only lions rampant are considered to be lions; feline figures in any other position are instead referred to as leopards.[265]

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    Panthera leo melanochaita is a lion subspecies in Southern and East Africa.[1] In this part of Africa, lion populations are regionally extinct in Lesotho, Djibouti and Eritrea, and are threatened by loss of habitat and prey base, killing by local people in retaliation for loss of livestock, and in several countries also by trophy hunting.[2] Since the turn of the 21st century, lion populations in intensively managed protected areas in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have increased, but declined in East African range countries.[3] In 2005, a Lion Conservation Strategy was developed for East and Southern Africa.[4]

    The type specimen for P. l. melanochaita was a black-maned lion from the Cape of Good Hope, known as the Cape lion.[5] Phylogeographic analysis of lion samples from Gabon and the Republic of the Congo indicate their close genetic relation to P. l. melanochaita samples from Namibia and Botswana.[6] It has been referred to as the Southern lion, Southern African lion and the ‘southern subspecies’.[7][8]

    Felis (Leo) melanochaitus was the scientific name proposed by Charles Hamilton Smith in 1842 who described a lion specimen from South Africa’s Cape Province.[9] In the 19th and 20th centuries, several naturalists described zoological specimens from Southern and East Africa and proposed the following subspecies:

    Dispute over the validity of these purported subspecies continued among naturalists and curators of natural history museums until the early 21st century.[5][19][20][21][22]
    In the 20th century, some authors supported the view of the Cape lion being a distinct subspecies.[16][19] In 1939, the American zoologist Allen also recognized F. l. bleyenberghi, F. l. krugeri and F. l. vernayi as valid subspecies in Southern Africa, and F. l. hollisteri, F. l. nyanzae and F. l. massaica as valid subspecies in East Africa.[19]

    lion species

    Pocock subordinated the lion to the genus Panthera in 1930, when he wrote about Asiatic lions.[23] Ellerman and Morrison-Scott recognized only two lion subspecies in the Palearctic realm, namely the African P. l. leo and the Asiatic P. l. persica.[24] Various authors recognized between seven and 10 African lion subspecies.[21] Others followed the classification proposed by Ellerman and Morrison-Scott, recognizing two subspecies including one in Africa.[25]

    In the 1970s, the scientific name P. l. vernayi was considered synonymous with P. l. krugeri.[21] In 1975, Vratislav Mazák hypothesized that the Cape lion evolved geographically isolated from other populations by the Great Escarpment.[5] In the early 21st century, Mazák’s hypothesis about a geographically isolated evolution of the Cape lion was challenged. Genetic exchanges between populations in the Cape, Kalahari and Transvaal Province regions and farther east are considered having been possible through a corridor between the Great Escarpment and the Indian ocean.[26][27]

    In 2005, the authors of Mammal Species of the World recognized P. l. bleyenberghi, P. l. krugeri, P. l. vernayi, P. l. massaica, P. l. hollisteri and P. l. nyanzae as valid taxa.[22] In 2016, IUCN Red List assessors subsumed all African lion populations to P. l. leo.[2] Two lion subspecies are now recognised:[1]

    Genome-wide data of a wild-born historical lion sample from Sudan clustered with P. l. leo in mtDNA-based phylogenies, but with a high affinity to P. l. melanochaita. This result indicates that the taxonomic position of lions in Central Africa may require revision.[28]

    Since the beginning of the 21st century, several phylogenetic studies were conducted to aid clarifying the taxonomic status of lion samples kept in museums and collected in the wild. Scientists analysed between 32 and 480 lion samples from up to 22 countries. Results of genetic analyses indicate that the species comprises two main evolutionary groups, one in Southern and East Africa, and the other in the northern and eastern parts of its historical range.[29][30][31][32] These groups genetically diverged between 50,000 and 200,000 years ago.[33][34] It was assumed that tropical rainforest and the East African Rift constituted major barriers between the two groups.[27][31][35][36][37][34]

    Lion samples from Gabon’s Batéké Plateau National Park and Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Republic of the Congo were found to be genetically closely related to lion samples from Namibia and Botswana.[6]
    A phylogenetic analysis of lion samples from Africa and Asia showed that they shared a common ancestor probably between 98,000 and 52,000 years ago. Samples from West Africa shared alleles with samples from Southern Africa, and samples from Central Africa shared alleles with samples from Asia. This indicates that Central Africa was a melting pot of lion populations after they had become isolated. They possibly migrated through corridors in the Nile Basin during the early Holocene.[28]

  • what is the state flower of louisiana?
  • Among six samples of captive lions from Ethiopia, five clustered with samples from East Africa, but one with samples from the Sahel.[36] For a subsequent phylogeographic study, eight wild lion samples from the Ethiopian Highlands were included in the DNA sequencing analysis using 194 lion samples from 22 countries. Four of these samples clustered with samples from Central Africa, and four with samples from East Africa, indicating that the Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia was not a complete barrier to gene flow. Southeastern Ethiopia is therefore considered a genetic admixture zone between Central and East African lions.[34]

    The lion’s fur varies in colour from light buff to dark brown. It has rounded ears and a black tail tuft.[38]

    Average head-to-body length of male lions is 2.47–2.84 m (8 ft 1 in–9 ft 4 in) with a weight ranging from 150–225 kg (331–496 lb) averaging 187.5 kg in Southern Africa and 145.4–204.7 kg (321–451 lb) averaging 174.9 kg in East Africa. Females average 83–165 kg (183–364 lb) in Southern Africa and 90–167.8 kg (198–370 lb) in East Africa.[39]
    Males in northern Kruger National Park weighed 200.01 kg (440.9 lb) on average, whereas females weighed 143.52 kg (316.4 lb) on average, and males in southern Kruger National Park weighed 186.55 kg (411.3 lb) on average and females weighed 118.37 kg (261.0 lb), though there was an outbreak of tuberculosis in southern park at the time.[40]
    Skeletal muscles make up 58.8% of the lion’s body weight.[41][42]

    The largest known lion measured 3.35 m (11.0 ft).[38] An exceptionally heavy male lion near Mount Kenya weighed 272 kg (600 lb).[43] The longest wild lion reportedly was a male shot near Mucusso National Park in southern Angola in 1973. In 1936, a man-eating lion shot in 1936 in eastern Transvaal weighed about 313 kg (690 lb), and was considered to have been one of the heaviest wild lions.[44] In 1963, two lions in Tanzania weighed 320 and 360 kg (700 and 800 lb) after killing several livestock.[45]

    In the 19th and 20th centuries, lion type specimens were described on the basis of their mane size and colour. Mane colour varies from sandy, tawny, isabelline, light reddish yellow to dark brown and black.[9][13][14][46][47] Mane length varies from short to extending to knee joints and under the belly.[21]
    Lions without a mane were observed in the Tsavo area.[48]

    Mane development is related to age: older males have more extensive manes than younger ones; manes continue to grow up to the age of four to five years, long after lions become sexually mature. Males living in the Kenyan highlands above elevations of 800 m (2,600 ft) develop heavier manes than lions in the more humid and warmer lowlands of eastern and northern Kenya.[49] Average ambient temperature, nutrition and testosterone influence the colour and size of the mane. Its length is an indicator for age and fighting ability of the lion. In Serengeti National Park, female lions favour males with dense and dark manes as mates.[50][51]

    White lions have occasionally been encountered in and around South Africa’s Kruger National Park and the adjacent Timbavati Private Game Reserve. Their whitish fur is a rare morph caused by a double recessive allele. It has normal pigmentation in eyes and skin. They were removed from the wild in the 1970s, thus decreasing the white lion gene pool. Nevertheless, 17 births have been recorded in five different prides between 2007 and 2015.[52] White lions were selected for breeding in captivity.[53] They have been bred in South African camps for use as trophies to be killed during canned hunts.[54]

    In East and Southern Africa, lion populations declined in:

    Contemporary lion distribution and habitat quality in East and Southern Africa was assessed in 2005, and Lion Conservation Units (LCU) mapped.[4] Between 2002 and 2012, educated guesses for size of populations in these LCUs ranged from 33,967 to 32,000 individuals.[57][55]

    The LCUs Ruaha−Rungwa, Serengeti−Mara, Tsavo−Mkomazi and Selous in East Africa, as well as Luangwa, Kgalagadi, Okavango−Hwange, Mid−Zambezi, Niassa and Greater Limpopo in Southern Africa are currently considered lion strongholds. These LCUs host more than 500 individuals each, and the population trend is stable there as of 2012.[55]

    In Serengeti National Park, monitoring of lion prides started in 1966.[75]
    Between 1966 and 1972, two observed lion prides comprised between seven and 10 females each. Females had litters once in 23 months on average.[76]
    Litters contained two to three cubs. Of 87 cubs born until 1970, only 12 reached the age of two years. Cubs died due to starvation in months when large prey was not available, or following take-over of the prides by new males.[77] Male lions in coalitions are closely related.[78]
    Between 1974 and 2012, 471 coalitions comprising 796 male lions entered a study area of 2,000 km2 (770 sq mi). Of these, 35 coalitions included male lions that were born in the area but had left and returned after about two years of absence. Nomadic coalitions became resident at between 3.5 and 7.3 years of age.[79]

    The lion population of Selous Game Reserve has been surveyed since 1996. Lion prides avoided acacia woodlands and preferred habitats near water courses with short grasses, where also prey species gathered. Two or more prides shared home ranges.[80]

    In Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, lions have been monitored since 1999. In 2003, 50 lions were radio-collared in Hwange National Park and tracked until 2012. Results show that adult male and female lions preferred grassland and shrubland habitat, but avoided woodlands and areas with high human density. By contrast, subadult dispersing male lions avoided grasslands and shrublands, but moved in human-dominated areas to a larger extent. Hence, dispersing lions are more vulnerable to coming into conflict with humans than adult lions.[81]
    In the semi-arid savanna of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, 19 lions were radio-collared and tracked between 2002 and 2007. Both female and male lions moved foremost within 2 km (1.2 mi) of waterholes in all seasons.[82]

    Lions living near ranches in the vicinity of Tsavo East National Park consisted of three prides, two pairs and a single lion in 2002.[83]

    Lions usually hunt in groups and prey foremost on ungulates such as gemsbok (Oryx gazella), Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), common eland (Tragelaphus oryx), greater kudu (T. strepsiceros), nyala (T. angasii), roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), sable antelope (H. niger), plains zebra (Equus quagga), bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus), common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), hartebeest (Alcephalus buselaphus), common tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus), waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), kob (K. kob) and Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii). Their prey is usually in the range of 190–550 kg (420–1,210 pounds).[84] In the Serengeti National Park, lions were observed to also scavenge on carrion of animals that were killed by other predators, or died from natural causes. They kept a constant lookout for circling vultures, apparently being aware that vultures indicate a dead animal.[75]
    Faeces of lions collected near waterholes in Hwange National Park also contained remains of climbing mice (Dendromus) and common mice (Mus).[85]

    In Botswana’s Chobe National Park, lions also prey on young and subadult African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana). They successfully attacked 74 elephants between 1993 and 1996, of which 26 were older than nine years, and one bull over 15 years old.[86] In October 2005, a pride of up to 30 lions killed eight African bush elephants that were between four and eleven years old.[87]

    Several cases of lion attacking people have been documented:

    In Africa, lions are threatened by pre-emptive killing or in retaliation for preying on livestock. Prey base depletion, loss and conversion of habitat have led to a number of subpopulations becoming small and isolated. Trophy hunting has contributed to population declines in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.[2] It is the primary cause for a decline of lion populations in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve and Katavi National Park.[96] Although lions and their prey are officially protected in Tsavo National Parks, they are regularly killed by local people, with over 100 known lion killings between 2001 and 2006.[62]

    Between 2008 and 2013, bones and body parts from at least 2621 individual lions were exported from South Africa to Southeast Asia, and another 3437 lion skeletons between 2014 and 2016. Lion bones are used to replace tiger bones in traditional Asian medicines.[97] Private game ranches in South Africa also breed lions for the canned hunting industry.[98]

    In 2014, seven lions in Ikona Wildlife Management Area were reportedly poisoned by a herdsman for attacking his cattle.[99] In February 2018, the carcasses of two male and four female lions were found dead in Ruaha National Park, and were suspected to have died of poisoning.[100][101]

    In 2015 and 2017, two male lions, Cecil and his son Xanda, were killed by trophy hunters in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.[102][103]

    Uncontrolled bushfires and hunting of lions and prey species in Zambia’s Kafue National Park make it difficult for the lion population to recover. Cub mortality in particular is high.[104]

    African lions are included in CITES Appendix II. Today, lion populations are stable only in large protected area complexes.[2] IUCN regional offices and many wildlife conservation organisations cooperated to develop a Lion Conservation Strategy for Eastern and Southern Africa in 2006. The strategy envisages to maintain sufficient habitat, ensure a sufficient wild prey base, make lion-human coexistence sustainable and reduce factors that lead to further fragmentation of populations.[4]
    Local communities in several Southern African lion range countries generate significant income through wildlife tourism, which is a strong incentive for their support of conservation measures.[2]

    Establishing corridors between protected areas is important for facilitating dispersal of lions. Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and Central Kalahari Game Reserve are key dispersal areas in Southern Africa.[105]

    At the beginning of the 21st century, the Addis Ababa Zoo kept 16 adult lions. It is assumed that their ancestors, five males and two females, were caught in southwestern Ethiopia as part of a zoological collection for Emperor Haile Selassie I.[106][107]

    In 2006, eight captive lions were registered under the name P. l. massaicus, and 23 as P. l. nubicus from Tanzania by the International Species Information System; about 100 captive lions were registered as P. l. krugeri, which derived from lions captured in South Africa.[27]

    In 2012, samples of lions kept at Sana’a Zoo in Yemen were found to cluster with those of lions from East and Southern Africa.[108]

    The lion is an animal symbol in shamanistic rituals of the Nuer people. In other East African cultures, it symbolizes laziness.[109] Scars inflicted by lions are regarded as a sign of courage among the Masai people.[110]
    The name ‘Simba’ is a Swahili word for the lion, which also means ‘aggressive’, ‘king’ and ‘strong’.[111]

    Lion populations in Southern and East Africa were referred to by several regional names, including Katanga lion, Transvaal lion, Kalahari lion,[14][16][17] Southeast African lion, and Southwest African lion,[112] Masai lion, Serengeti lion,[75] Tsavo lion[48] and Uganda lion.[21] It has also been referred to as ‘Eastern-Southern African lion’,[29] ‘Southern lion’,[31][28] and as ‘southern subspecies’.[7]

    Conservation Strategy for the Lion Panthera leo in Eastern and Southern AfricaDownloads-icon

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    The Asiatic lion is a Panthera leo leo population surviving today only in India.[3] Since the turn of the 20th century, its range is restricted to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat. Historically, it inhabited much of the Middle East to northern India.[4]

    The first scientific description of the Asiatic lion was published in 1826 by the Austrian zoologist Johann N. Meyer, who named it Felis leo persicus.[5] On the IUCN Red List, it is listed under its former scientific name Panthera leo persica as Endangered because of its small population size and area of occupancy.[1] Until the 19th century, it occurred in Saudi Arabia,[6][7] eastern Turkey, Iran, Mesopotamia, Pakistan, and from east of the Indus River to Bengal and the Narmada River in Central India.[8]

    The population has steadily increased since 2010.[9] In May 2015, the 14th Asiatic Lion Census was conducted over an area of about 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi); the lion population was estimated at 523 individuals, comprising 109 adult males, 201 adult females and 213 cubs.[10][11][12] In August 2017, surveyors counted 650 wild lions.[13][14] In June 2020, an estimation exercise counted 674 Asiatic lions in the Gir forest region, an increase of 29% over the 2015 census figure.[15]

    The lion is one of five pantherine cats native to India, along with the Bengal tiger (P. tigris tigris), Indian leopard (P. pardus fusca), snow leopard (P. uncia) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa).[16][17] It was also known as the Indian lion and the Persian lion.[18][19]

    lion species

    Felis leo persicus was the scientific name proposed by Johann N. Meyer in 1826 who described an Asiatic lion skin from Persia.[5]
    In the 19th century, several zoologists described lion zoological specimen from other parts of Asia that used to be considered synonyms of P. l. persica:[8]

    In 2017, the Asiatic lion was subsumed to P. l. leo due to close morphological and molecular genetic similarities with Barbary lion specimens.[3][24]
    However, several scientists continue using P. l. persica for the Asiatic lion.[11][25][26][27][28][29]

    Fossil remains of Panthera spelaea excavated in the Cromer Stage indicate that it represented a genetically isolated and highly distinct lineage, not closely related to Asiatic lions.[30] Fossil lion remains were found in Pleistocene deposits in West Bengal.[31] A fossil carnassial excavated in the Batadomba Cave indicates that the Sri Lanka lion (P. l. sinhaleyus) inhabited Sri Lanka during the late Pleistocene, and is thought to have become extinct around 39,000 years ago. Deraniyagala described this lion in 1939.[32]

    Results of a phylogeographic analysis based on mtDNA sequences of lions from across the global range, including now extinct populations like Barbary lions, indicates that Sub-Saharan African lions are phylogenetically basal to all modern lions. These findings support an African origin of modern lion evolution with a probable centre in East and Southern Africa. It is likely that lions migrated from there to West Africa, eastern North Africa and via the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula into Turkey, southern Europe and northern India during the last 20,000 years. The Sahara, Congolian rainforests and the Great Rift Valley are natural barriers to lion dispersal.[33]

    Genetic markers of 357 samples from captive and wild lions from Africa and India were examined. Results indicate four lineages of lion populations: one in Central and North Africa to Asia, one in Kenya, one in Southern Africa, and one in Southern and East Africa; the first wave of lion expansion probably occurred about 118,000 years ago from East Africa into West Asia, and the second wave in the late Pleistocene or early Holocene periods from Southern Africa towards East Africa.[34]
    The Asiatic lion is genetically closer to North and West African lions than to the group comprising East and Southern African lions. The two groups probably diverged about 186,000–128,000 years ago. It is thought that the Asiatic lion remained connected to North and Central African lions until gene flow was interrupted due to extinction of lions in Western Eurasia and the Middle East during the Holocene.[35][36]

    Asiatic lions are less genetically diverse than African lions, which may be the result of a founder effect in the recent history of the remnant population in the Gir Forest.[37]

  • house symbol in word
  • The Asiatic lion’s fur ranges in colour from ruddy-tawny, heavily speckled with black, to sandy or buffish grey, sometimes with a silvery sheen in certain lighting. Males have only moderate mane growth at the top of the head, so that their ears are always visible. The mane is scanty on the cheeks and throat, where it is only 10 cm (3.9 in) long. About half of Asiatic lions’ skulls from the Gir forest have divided infraorbital foramina, whereas African lions have only one foramen on either side. The sagittal crest is more strongly developed, and the post-orbital area is shorter than in African lions. Skull length in adult males ranges from 330 to 340 mm (13 to 13 in), and in females, from 292 to 302 mm (11.5 to 11.9 in). It differs from the African lion by a larger tail tuft and less inflated auditory bullae.[8]
    The most striking morphological character of the Asiatic lion is a longitudinal fold of skin running along its belly.[38]

    Males have a shoulder height of up to 107–120 cm (3.51–3.94 ft), and females of 80–107 cm (2.62–3.51 ft).[39] Two lions in Gir Forest measured 1.98 m (78 in) from head to body with a 0.79–0.89 m (31–35 in) long tail of and total lengths of 2.82–2.87 m (111–113 in). The Gir lion is similar in size to the Central African lion,[8] and smaller than large African lions.[40]
    An Adult male Asiatic lion weighs 160.1 kg (353 lbs) on average with the limit being 190 kg; a wild female weighs 100 to 130 kg (220 to 290 lb).[41] [42][2]

    Colour and development of manes in male lions varies between regions, among populations and with age of lions.[43] In general, the Asiatic lion differs from the African lion by a less developed mane.[8] The manes of most lions in ancient Greece and Asia Minor were also less developed and did not extend to below the belly, sides or ulnas. Lions with such smaller manes were also known in the Syrian region, Arabian peninsula and Egypt.[18][44]

    The confirmed record total length of a male Asiatic lion is 2.92 m (115 in), including the tail.[45]

    Emperor Jahangir allegedly speared a lion in the 1620s that measured 3.10 m (122 in) and weighed 306 kg (675 lb).[46]

    In 1841, English traveller Austen Henry Layard accompanied hunters in Khuzestan, Iran, and sighted a lion which “had done much damage in the plain of Ram Hormuz,” before one of his companions killed it. He described it as being “unusually large and of very dark brown colour”, with some parts of its body being almost black.[47]

    In 1935, a British admiral claimed to have sighted a maneless lion feeding on a goat near Quetta in Pakistan. He wrote “It was a large lion, very stocky, light tawny in colour, and I may say that no one of us three had the slightest doubt of what we had seen until, on our arrival at Quetta, many officers expressed doubts as to its identity, or to the possibility of there being a lion in the district.”[4]

    In Saurashtra’s Gir Forest, an area of 1,412.1 km2 (545.2 sq mi) was declared as a sanctuary for Asiatic lion conservation in 1965. This sanctuary and the surrounding areas are the only habitats supporting the Asiatic lion.[9] After 1965, a national park was established covering an area of 258.71 km2 (99.89 sq mi) where human activity is not allowed. In the surrounding sanctuary only Maldharis have the right to take their livestock for grazing.[48]

    Lions inhabit remnant forest habitats in the two hill systems of Gir and Girnar that comprise Gujarat’s largest tracts of tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests, thorny forest and savanna, and provide valuable habitat for a diverse flora and fauna. Five protected areas currently exist to protect the Asiatic lion: Gir Sanctuary, Gir National Park, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary, and Girnar Sanctuary. The first three protected areas form the Gir Conservation Area, a 1,452 km2 (561 sq mi) large forest block that represents the core habitat of the lion population. The other two sanctuaries Mitiyala and Girnar protect satellite areas within dispersal distance of the Gir Conservation Area. An additional sanctuary is being established in the nearby Barda Wildlife Sanctuary to serve as an alternative home for lions.[9] The drier eastern part is vegetated with acacia thorn savanna and receives about 650 mm (26 in) annual rainfall; rainfall in the west is higher at about 1,000 mm (39 in) per year.[41]

    The lion population recovered from the brink of extinction to 411 individuals by 2010. In that year, approximately 105 lions lived outside the Gir forest, representing a quarter of the entire lion population. Dispersing sub-adults established new territories outside their natal prides, and as a result the satellite lion population has been increasing since 1995.[9]
    By 2015, the total population had grown to an estimated 523 individuals, inhabiting an area of 7,000 km2 (2,700 sq mi) in the Saurashtra region.[10][11][12] The Asiatic Lion Census conducted in 2017 revealed about 650 individuals.[13]

    By 2020, at least six satellite populations had spread to eight districts in Gujarat and live in human-dominated areas outside the protected area network.[49]

    The Asiatic lion used to occur in Arabia, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Baluchistan.[8] In South Caucasia (present day Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan), it was known since the Holocene, and became extinct in the 10th century. Until the middle of the 19th century, it survived in regions adjoining Mesopotamia and Syria, and was still sighted in the upper reaches of the Euphrates River in the early 1870s.[18][19] By the late 19th century, the Asiatic lion had become extinct in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.[6][51] The last known lion in Iraq was killed on the lower Tigris in 1918.[52]

    Historical records in Iran indicate that it ranged from the Khuzestan Plain to Fars Province at elevations below 2,000 m (6,600 ft) in steppe vegetation and pistachio-almond woodlands.[53] It was widespread in the country, but in the 1870s, it was sighted only on the western slopes of the Zagros Mountains, and in the forest regions south of Shiraz.[18] It served as the national emblem and appeared on the country’s flag. Some of the country’s last lions were sighted in 1941 between Shiraz and Jahrom in Fars Province, and in 1942, a lion was spotted about 65 km (40 mi) northwest of Dezful.[54] In 1944, the corpse of a lioness was found on the banks of the Karun River in Iran’s Khuzestan Province.[55][56]

    In India, the Asiatic lion occurred in Sind, Bahawalpur, Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar and eastward as far as Palamau and Rewa, Madhya Pradesh in the early 19th century.[57][47] It once ranged to Bangladesh in the east and up to Narmada River in the south.[47]
    Because of the lion’s restricted distribution in India, Reginald Innes Pocock assumed that it arrived from Europe, southwestern Asia through Balochistan only recently, before humans started limiting its dispersal in the country. The advent and increasing availability of firearms led to its local extirpation over large areas.[8]
    Heavy hunting by British colonial officers and Indian rulers caused a steady and marked decline of lion numbers in the country.[48] Lions were exterminated in Palamau by 1814, in Baroda, Hariana and Ahmedabad district in the 1830s, in Kot Diji and Damoh in the 1840s. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a British officer shot 300 lions. The last lions of Gwalior and Rewah were shot in the 1860s. One lion was killed near Allahabad in 1866.[57] The last lion of Mount Abu in Rajasthan was spotted in 1872.[58] By the late 1870s, lions were extinct in Rajasthan.[47] By 1880, no lion survived in Guna, Deesa and Palanpur districts, and only about a dozen lions were left in Junagadh district. By the turn of the century, the Gir Forest held the only Asiatic lion population in India, which was protected by the Nawab of Junagarh in his private hunting grounds.[8][47]

    Male Asiatic lions are solitary, or associate with up to three males, forming a loose pride. Pairs of males rest, hunt and feed together, and display marking behaviour at the same sites. Females associate with up to 12 females, forming a stronger pride together with their cubs. They share large carcasses among each other, but seldom with males. Female and male lions usually associate only for a few days when mating, but rarely live and feed together.[59][60]

    Results of a radio telemetry study indicate that annual home ranges of male lions vary from 144 to 230 km2 (56 to 89 sq mi) in dry and wet seasons. Home ranges of females are smaller, varying between 67 and 85 km2 (26 and 33 sq mi).[61] During hot and dry seasons, they favour densely vegetated and shady riverine habitats, where prey species also congregate.[62][63]

    Coalitions of males defend home ranges containing one or more female prides.[64]
    Together, they hold a territory for a longer time than single lions. Males in coalitions of three to four individuals exhibit a pronounced hierarchy with one male dominating the others.[65]

    The lions in Gir National Park are active at twilight and by night, showing a high temporal overlap with sambar (Rusa unicolor), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus).[66]

    In general, lions prefer large prey species within a weight range of 190 to 550 kg (420 to 1,210 lb), irrespective of their availability.[67] Domestic cattle have historically been a major component of the Asiatic lions’ diet in the Gir Forest.[8]
    Inside Gir Forest National Park, lions predominantly kill chital (Axis axis), sambar deer, nilgai, cattle (Bos taurus), domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), and less frequently wild boar.[61] They most commonly kill chital, which weighs only around 50 kg (110 lb).[64] They prey on sambar deer when the latter descend from the hills during summer. Outside the protected area where wild prey species do not occur, lions prey on water buffalo and cattle, and rarely on dromedary (Camelus dromedarius). They generally kill most prey less than 100 m (330 ft) away from water bodies, charge prey from close range and drag carcasses into dense cover.[61]
    They regularly visit specific sites within the protected area to scavenge on dead livestock dumped by Maldhari livestock herders.[68]
    During dry, hot months, they also prey on mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) on the banks of Kamleshwar Dam.[56]: 148 

    In 1974, the Forest Department estimated the wild ungulate population at 9,650 individuals. In the following decades, the wild ungulate population has grown consistently to 31,490 in 1990 and 64,850 in 2010, including 52,490 chital, 4,440 wild boar, 4,000 sambar, 2,890 nilgai, 740 chinkara (Gazella bennetti), and 290 four-horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis). In contrast, populations of domestic buffalo and cattle declined following resettlement, largely due to direct removal of resident livestock from the Gir Conservation Area. The population of 24,250 domestic livestock in the 1970s declined to 12,500 by the mid-1980s, but increased to 23,440 animals in 2010. Following changes in both predator and prey communities, Asiatic lions shifted their predation patterns. Today, very few livestock kills occur within the sanctuary, and instead most occur in peripheral villages. Depredation records indicate that in and around the Gir Forest, lions killed on average 2,023 livestock annually between 2005 and 2009, and an additional 696 individuals in satellite areas.[9]

    Dominant males consume about 47% more from kills than their coalition partners. Aggression between partners increases when coalitions are large, but kills are small.[65]

    Asiatic lions mate foremost between October and November.[69] Mating lasts three to six days. During these days, they usually do not hunt, but only drink water. Gestation lasts about 110 days. Litters comprise one to four cubs.[70]
    The average interval between births is 24 months, unless cubs die due to infanticide by adult males or because of diseases and injuries. Cubs become independent at the age of about two years. Subadult males leave their natal pride latest at the age of three years and become nomads until they establish their own territory.[60]
    Dominant males mate more frequently than their coalition partners. During a study carried out between December 2012 and December 2016, three females were observed switching mating partners in favour of the dominant male.[65] Monitoring of more than 70 mating events showed that females mated with males of several rivaling prides that shared their home ranges, and that these males were tolerant toward the same cubs. Only new males that entered the female territories killed unfamiliar cubs. Young females mated foremost with males within their home ranges. Older females selected males at the periphery of their home ranges.[71]

    The Asiatic lion currently exists as a single subpopulation, and is thus vulnerable to extinction from unpredictable events, such as an epidemic or large forest fire. There are indications of poaching incidents in recent years, as well as reports that organized poacher gangs have switched attention from local Bengal tigers to the Gujarat lions. There have also been a number of drowning incidents, after lions fell into wells.[1]

    Prior to the resettlement of Maldharis, the Gir forest was heavily degraded and used by livestock, which competed with and restricted the population sizes of native ungulates. Various studies reveal tremendous habitat recovery and increases in wild ungulate populations following the resettlement of Maldharis since the 1970s.[9]

    Nearly 25 lions in the vicinity of Gir Forest were found dead in October 2018. Four of them had died because of canine distemper virus, the same virus that had also killed several lions in the Serengeti.[72][73]

    Since the mid 1990s, the Asiatic lion population has increased to an extent that by 2015, about a third resided outside the protected area. Hence, conflict between local residents and wildlife also increased. Local people protect their crops from nilgai, wild boar, and other herbivores by using electrical fences that are powered with high voltage. Some consider the presence of predators a benefit, as they keep the herbivore population in check. But some also fear the lions, and killed several in retaliation for attacks on livestock.[74]

    In July 2012, a lion dragged a man from the veranda of his house and killed him about 50–60 km (31–37 mi) from Gir Forest National Park. This was the second attack by a lion in this area, six months after a 25-year-old man was attacked and killed in Dhodadar.[75]

    Panthera leo persica was included on CITES Appendix I, and is fully protected in India.[4]

    In the 1950s, biologists advised the Indian government to re-establish at least one wild population in the Asiatic lion’s former range to ensure the population’s reproductive health and to prevent it from being affected by an outbreak of an epidemic. In 1956, the Indian Board for Wildlife accepted a proposal by the Government of Uttar Pradesh to establish a new sanctuary for the envisaged reintroduction, Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary, covering 96 km2 (37 sq mi) in eastern Uttar Pradesh, where climate, terrain and vegetation is similar to the conditions in the Gir Forest. In 1957, one male and two female wild-caught Asiatic lions were set free in the sanctuary. This population comprised 11 animals in 1965, which all disappeared thereafter.[76]

    lion species

    The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project to find an alternative habitat for reintroducing Asiatic lions was pursued in the early 1990s. Biologists from the Wildlife Institute of India assessed several potential translocation sites for their suitability regarding existing prey population and habitat conditions. The Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Madhya Pradesh was ranked as the most promising location, followed by Sita Mata Wildlife Sanctuary and Darrah National Park.[77] Until 2000, 1,100 families from 16 villages had been resettled from the Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, and another 500 families from eight villages were expected to be resettled. With this resettlement scheme the protected area was expanded by 345 km2 (133 sq mi).[76][78]

    Gujarat state officials resisted the relocation, since it would make the Gir Sanctuary lose its status as the world’s only home of the Asiatic lion. Gujarat raised a number of objections to the proposal, and thus the matter went before the Indian Supreme Court. In April 2013, the Indian Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat state to send some of their Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh to establish a second population there.[79] The court had given wildlife authorities six months to complete the transfer. The number of lions and which ones to be transported will be decided at a later date. As of now, the plan to shift lions to Kuno is in jeopardy, with Madhya Pradesh having apparently given up on acquiring lions from Gujarat.[80][81]

    In 1977, Iran attempted to restore its lion population by transporting Gir lions to Arzhan National Park, but the project met resistance from the local population, and thus it was not implemented.[19][54] However, this did not stop Iran from seeking to bring back the lion.[82][83] In February 2019, Tehran Zoological Garden obtained a male Asiatic lion from Bristol Zoo in the United Kingdom,[84] followed in June by a female from Dublin Zoo. They are supposed to reproduce.[85]

    Until the late 1990s, captive Asiatic lions in Indian zoos were haphazardly interbred with African lions confiscated from circuses, leading to genetic pollution in the captive Asiatic lion stock. Once discovered, this led to the complete shutdown of the European and American endangered species breeding programs for Asiatic lions, as its founder animals were captive-bred Asiatic lions originally imported from India and were ascertained to be intraspecific hybrids of African and Asian lions. In North American zoos, several Indian-African lion crosses were inadvertently bred, and researchers noted that “the fecundity, reproductive success, and spermatozoal development improved dramatically.”[86][87]

    DNA fingerprinting studies of Asiatic lions have helped in identifying individuals with high genetic variability, which can be used for conservation breeding programs.[88]

    In 2006, the Central Zoo Authority of India stopped breeding Indian-African cross lions stating that “hybrid lions have no conservation value and it is not worth to spend resources on them”.[86][89] Now only pure native Asiatic lions are bred in India.

    In 1972 the Sakkarbaug Zoo sold a pair of young pure-stock lions to the Fauna Preservation Society; which decided they would be accommodated at the Jersey Wildlife Trust where it was hoped to begin a captive breeding programme.[90]

    The Asiatic lion International Studbook was initiated in 1977, followed in 1983 by the North American Species Survival Plan (SSP).[91]
    The North American population of captive Asiatic lions was composed of descendants of five founder lions, three of which were pure Asian and two were African or African-Asian hybrids. The lions kept in the framework of the SSP consisted of animals with high inbreeding coefficients.[38]

    In the early 1990s, three European zoos imported pure Asiatic lions from India: London Zoo obtained two pairs; the Zürich Zoologischer Garten one pair; and the Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki one male and two females. In 1994, the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for Asiatic lions was initiated. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) published the first European Studbook in 1999. By 2005, there were 80 Asiatic lions kept in the EEP — the only captive population outside of India.[91]
    As of 2009, more than 100 Asiatic lions were kept within the EEP. The SSP had not resumed; pure-bred Asiatic lions are needed to form a new founder population for breeding in American zoos.[92]

    Neolithic cave paintings of lions were found in Bhimbetka rock shelters in central India, which are at least 30,000 years old.[93]

    The Sanskrit word for ‘lion’ is ‘सिंह’ siṃhaḥ, which is also a name of Shiva and signifies the Leo of the Zodiac.[94]
    The Sanskrit name of Sri Lanka is Sinhala meaning ‘Abode of Lions’.[95] Singapore derives its name from the Malay words singa ‘lion’ and pura ‘city’, which in turn is from the Sanskrit ‘सिंह’ siṃhaḥ and पुर pur, latter also meaning ‘fortified town’.[94][96]

    In Hindu mythology, the half man half lion avatar Narasimha is the fourth incarnation of Vishnu.[97]
    Simhamukha is a lion-faced protector and dakini in Tibetan Buddhism.[98]

    In the 18th book of the Mahabharata, Bharata deprives lions of their prowess.[99]
    The lion plays a prominent role in the The Fables of Pilpay that were translated into Persian, Greek and Hebrew languages between the 8th and 12th centuries.[100]
    The lion is the symbol of Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara in Jainism.[101][102]

    Lions are depicted on vases dating to about 2600 before present that were excavated near Lake Urmia in Iran.[107]
    The lion was an important symbol in Ancient Iraq and is depicted in a stone relief at Nineveh in the Mesopotamian Plain.[108][109]

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    “A conservation success story in the otherwise dire megafauna extinction crisis: The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) of Gir forest”Downloads-icon

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    A keystone species is a species which has a disproportionately large effect on its natural environment relative to its abundance, a concept introduced in 1969 by the zoologist Robert T. Paine. Keystone species play a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community, affecting many other organisms in an ecosystem and helping to determine the types and numbers of various other species in the community. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether. Some keystone species, such as the wolf, are also apex predators.

    The role that a keystone species plays in its ecosystem is analogous to the role of a keystone in an arch. While the keystone is under the least pressure of any of the stones in an arch, the arch still collapses without it. Similarly, an ecosystem may experience a dramatic shift if a keystone species is removed, even though that species was a small part of the ecosystem by measures of biomass or productivity.
    It became a popular concept in conservation biology, alongside flagship and umbrella species. Although the concept is valued as a descriptor for particularly strong inter-species interactions, and has allowed easier communication between ecologists and conservation policy-makers, it has been criticized for oversimplifying complex ecological systems.

    The concept of the keystone species was introduced in 1969 by the zoologist Robert T. Paine.[1][2] Paine developed the concept to explain his observations and experiments on the relationships between marine invertebrates of the intertidal zone (between the high and low tide lines), including starfish and mussels. He removed the starfish from an area, and documented the effects on the ecosystem.[3] In his 1966 paper, Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity, Paine had described such a system in Makah Bay in Washington.[4]
    In his 1969 paper, Paine proposed the keystone species concept, using Pisaster ochraceus, a species of starfish generally known as ochre starfish, and Mytilus californianus, a species of mussel, as a primary example.[1] The ochre starfish is a generalist predator and feeds on chitons, limpets, snails, barnacles, echinoids, and even decapod crustacea. The favourite food for these starfish is the mussel which is a dominant competitor for the space on the rocks. The ochre starfish keeps the population numbers of the mussels in check along with the other preys allowing the other seaweeds, sponges, and anemones to co-exist that ochre starfish do not consume. When Paine removed the ochre starfish the mussels quickly outgrew the other species crowding them out. The concept became popular in conservation, and was deployed in a range of contexts and mobilized to engender support for conservation, especially where human activities had damaged ecosystems, such as by removing keystone predators.[5][6]

    A keystone species was defined by Paine as a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance.[7] It has been defined operationally by Davic in 2003 as “a strongly interacting species whose top-down effect on species diversity and competition is large relative to its biomass dominance within a functional group.”[8]

    lion species

    A classic keystone species is a predator that prevents a particular herbivorous species from eliminating dominant plant species. If prey numbers are low, keystone predators can be even less abundant and still be effective. Yet without the predators, the herbivorous prey would explode in numbers, wipe out the dominant plants, and dramatically alter the character of the ecosystem. The exact scenario changes in each example, but the central idea remains that through a chain of interactions, a non-abundant species has an outsized impact on ecosystem functions. For example, the herbivorous weevil Euhrychiopsis lecontei is thought to have keystone effects on aquatic plant diversity by foraging on nuisance Eurasian watermilfoil in North American waters.[9] Similarly, the wasp species Agelaia vicina has been labeled a keystone species for its unparalleled nest size, colony size, and high rate of brood production. The diversity of its prey and the quantity necessary to sustain its high rate of growth have a direct impact on other species around it.[7]

    The keystone concept is defined by its ecological effects, and these in turn make it important for conservation. In this it overlaps with several other species conservation concepts such as flagship species, indicator species, and umbrella species. For example, the jaguar is a charismatic big cat which meets all of these definitions:[10]

    The jaguar is an umbrella species, flagship species, and wilderness quality indicator. It promotes the goals of carnivore recovery, protecting and restoring connectivity through Madrean woodland and riparian areas, and protecting and restoring riparian areas. … A reserve system that protects jaguars is an umbrella for many other species. … the jaguar [is] a keystone in subtropical and tropical America …

    Sea otters protect kelp forests from damage by sea urchins. When the sea otters of the North American west coast were hunted commercially for their fur, their numbers fell to such low levels – fewer than 1000 in the north Pacific ocean – that they were unable to control the sea urchin population. The urchins in turn grazed the holdfasts of kelp so heavily that the kelp forests largely disappeared, along with all the species that depended on them. Reintroducing the sea otters has enabled the kelp ecosystem to be restored. For example, in Southeast Alaska some 400 sea otters were released, and they have bred to form a population approaching 25,000.[11][12][13][14]

    Keystone predators may increase the biodiversity of communities by preventing a single species from becoming dominant. They can have a profound influence on the balance of organisms in a particular ecosystem. Introduction or removal of a keystone predator, or changes in its population density, can have drastic cascading effects on the equilibrium of many other populations in the ecosystem. For example, grazers of a grassland may prevent a single dominant species from taking over.[15]

    The elimination of the gray wolf from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem had profound impacts on the trophic pyramid. Without predation, herbivores began to over-graze many woody browse species, affecting the area’s plant populations. In addition, wolves often kept animals from grazing in riparian areas, which protected beavers from having their food sources encroached upon. The removal of wolves had a direct effect on beaver populations, as their habitat became grazing territory. Increased browsing on willows and conifers along Blacktail Creek due to a lack of predation caused channel incision because the beavers helped slow the water down, allowing soil to stay in place. Furthermore, predation keeps hydrological features such as creeks and streams in normal working order. When wolves were reintroduced, the beaver population and the whole riparian ecosystem recovered dramatically within a few years.[16]

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  • As described by Paine in 1966, some sea stars (e.g., Pisaster ochraceus) may prey on sea urchins, mussels, and other shellfish that have no other natural predators. If the sea star is removed from the ecosystem, the mussel population explodes uncontrollably, driving out most other species.[17] The recent onset of sea star wasting disease around the United States has indirectly caused mussel populations to dominate in many intertidal habitats.

    These creatures need not be apex predators. Sea stars are prey for sharks, rays, and sea anemones. Sea otters are prey for orca.[18]

    The jaguar, whose numbers in Central and South America have been classified as near threatened, acts as a keystone predator by its widely varied diet, helping to balance the mammalian jungle ecosystem with its consumption of 87 different species of prey.[19] The lion is another keystone species.[20]

    Keystone mutualists are organisms that participate in mutually beneficial interaction, the loss of which would have a profound impact upon the ecosystem as a whole. For example, in the Avon Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, there is a period of each year when Banksia prionotes (acorn banksia) is the sole source of nectar for honeyeaters, which play an important role in pollination of numerous plant species. Therefore, the loss of this one species of tree would probably cause the honeyeater population to collapse, with profound implications for the entire ecosystem. Another example is frugivores, such as the cassowary, which spreads the seeds of many different trees. Some seeds will not grow unless they have been through a cassowary.[21][22]

    A term used alongside keystone is ecosystem engineer.[5] In North America, the prairie dog is an ecosystem engineer. Prairie dog burrows provide the nesting areas for mountain plovers and burrowing owls. Prairie dog tunnel systems also help channel rainwater into the water table to prevent runoff and erosion, and can also serve to change the composition of the soil in a region by increasing aeration and reversing soil compaction that can be a result of cattle grazing. Prairie dogs also trim the vegetation around their colonies, perhaps to remove any cover for predators.[23] Grazing species such as plains bison, pronghorn, and mule deer have shown a proclivity for grazing on the same land used by prairie dogs.[24]

    The beaver is a well known ecosystem engineer and keystone species. It transforms its territory from a stream to a pond or swamp. Beavers affect the environment first altering the edges of riparian areas by cutting down older trees to use for their dams. This allows younger trees to take their place. Beaver dams alter the riparian area they are established in. Depending on topography, soils, and many factors, these dams change the riparian edges of streams and rivers into wetlands, meadows, or riverine forests. These dams have been shown to be beneficial to a myriad of species including amphibians, salmon, and song birds.[25]

    In the African savanna, the larger herbivores, especially the elephants, shape their environment. The elephants destroy trees, making room for the grass species. Without these animals, much of the savanna would turn into woodland.[26]
    In the Amazon river basin, peccaries produce and maintain wallows that are utilized by a wide variety of species.[27][28]
    Australian studies have found that parrotfish on the Great Barrier Reef are the only reef fish that consistently scrape and clean the coral on the reef. Without these animals, the Great Barrier Reef would be under severe strain.[29]

    In the Serengeti, the presence of sufficient gnus in these grasslands promote tree growth, which in turn reduces wildfire likelihood. The documentary The Serengeti Rules documents this in detail.[30]

    Although the concept of the keystone species has a value in describing particularly strong inter-species interactions, and for allowing easier communication between ecologists and conservation policy-makers, it has been criticized by L. S. Mills and colleagues for oversimplifying complex ecological systems. The term has been applied widely in different ecosystems and to predators, prey, and plants (primary producers), inevitably with differing ecological meanings. For instance, removing a predator may allow other animals to increase to the point where they wipe out other species; removing a prey species may cause predator populations to crash, or may allow predators to drive other prey species to extinction; and removing a plant species may result in the loss of animals that depend on it, like pollinators and seed dispersers. Beavers too have been called keystone, not for eating other species but for modifying the environment in ways that affected other species. The term has thus been given quite different meanings in different cases. In Mills’s view, Paine’s work showed that a few species could sometimes have extremely strong interactions within a particular ecosystem, but that does not automatically imply that other ecosystems have a similar structure.[3]

    The Barbary lion, also called the North African lion,[3] Berber lion, Atlas lion,[4] and Egyptian lion,[5] is a Panthera leo leo population that is extinct in the wild. It lived in the mountains and deserts of the Barbary Coast of North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt.[6] It was eradicated following the spread of firearms and bounties for shooting lions.[3] A comprehensive review of hunting and sighting records revealed that small groups of lions may have survived in Algeria until the early 1960s, and in Morocco until the mid-1960s.[6] Today, it is locally extinct in this region.[7]

    Until 2017, the Barbary lion was considered a distinct lion subspecies.[8][2][1]
    Results of morphological and genetic analyses of lion samples from North Africa published in 2008 showed that the Barbary lion does not differ significantly from lion samples collected in West and northern parts of Central Africa.[9] It falls into the same phylogeographic group as the Asiatic lion, and is also closely related to lion populations in West Africa.[10][11]

    Barbary lion zoological specimens range in colour from light to dark tawny. Male lion skins had manes of varying colouration and length.[12]
    Head-to-tail length of stuffed males in zoological collections varies from .mw-parser-output .frac{white-space:nowrap}.mw-parser-output .frac .num,.mw-parser-output .frac .den{font-size:80%;line-height:0;vertical-align:super}.mw-parser-output .frac .den{vertical-align:sub}.mw-parser-output .sr-only{border:0;clip:rect(0,0,0,0);height:1px;margin:-1px;overflow:hidden;padding:0;position:absolute;width:1px}2.35 to 2.8 m (7 ft 8+1⁄2 in to 9 ft 2 in), and of females around 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in). Skull size varied from 30.85 to 37.23 cm (1 ft 0.15 in to 1 ft 2.66 in). Some manes extended over the shoulder and under the belly to the elbows. The mane hair was 8 to 22 cm (3.1 in to 8.7 in) long.[13][12][14]

    In 19th century hunter accounts, the Barbary lion was claimed to be the largest lion, with a weight of wild males ranging from 270 to 300 kg (600 to 660 lb).[15] Yet, the accuracy of such data measured in the field is questionable. Captive Barbary lions were much smaller but kept under such poor conditions that they might not have attained their full potential size and weight.[15]

    lion species

    The colour and size of lions’ manes was long thought to be a sufficiently distinct morphological characteristic to accord a subspecific status to lion populations.[16] Mane development varies with age and between individuals from different regions, and is therefore not a sufficient characteristic for subspecific identification.[17] The size of manes is not regarded as evidence for Barbary lions’ ancestry. Instead, results of mitochondrial DNA research support the genetic distinctness of Barbary lions in a unique haplotype found in museum specimens that is thought to be of Barbary lion descent. The presence of this haplotype is considered a reliable molecular marker to identify captive Barbary lions.[18]
    Barbary lions may have developed long-haired manes, because of lower temperatures in the Atlas Mountains than in other African regions, particularly in winter.[15]
    Results of a long-term study on lions in Serengeti National Park indicate that ambient temperature, nutrition and the level of testosterone influence the colour and size of lion manes.[19]

    Felis leo was the scientific name proposed by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 for a type specimen from Constantine, Algeria.[20] Following Linnaeus’s description, several lion zoological specimens from North Africa were described and proposed as subspecies in the 19th century:

    In 1930, Reginald Innes Pocock subordinated the lion to the genus Panthera, when he wrote about the Asiatic lion.[23]

    In the 20th and early 21st centuries, there has been much debate and controversy among zoologists on lion classification and validity of proposed subspecies:

    Results of a phylogeographic analysis using samples from African and Asiatic lions was published in 2006. One of the African samples was a vertebra from the National Museum of Natural History (France) that originated in the Nubian part of Sudan. In terms of mitochondrial DNA, it grouped with lion skull samples from the Central African Republic, Ethiopia and the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[18]

    While the historical Barbary lion was morphologically distinct, its genetic uniqueness remained questionable.[28]
    In a comprehensive study about the evolution of lions in 2008, 357 samples of wild and captive lions from Africa and India were examined. Results showed that four captive lions from Morocco did not exhibit any unique genetic characteristic, but shared mitochondrial haplotypes with lion samples from West and Central Africa. They were all part of a major mtDNA grouping that also included Asiatic lion samples. Results provided evidence for the hypothesis that this group developed in East Africa, and about 118,000 years ago traveled north and west in the first wave of lion expansion. It broke up within Africa, and later in West Asia. Lions in Africa probably constitute a single population that interbred during several waves of migration since the Late Pleistocene.[9] Genome-wide data of a wild-born historical lion specimen from Sudan clustered with P. l. leo in mtDNA-based phylogenies, but with a high affinity to P. l. melanochaita.[11]

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  • Historical sighting and hunting records from the 19th and 20th centuries show that the Barbary lion inhabited Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub. The westernmost sighting of a Barbary lion reportedly occurred in the Anti-Atlas in western Morocco. It ranged from the Atlas Mountains and the Rif in Morocco, the Ksour and Amour Ranges in Algeria to the Aurès Mountains in Tunisia.[6]
    In Algeria, the Barbary lion was sighted in the forested hills and mountains between Ouarsenis in the west to the Chelif River plains in the north and the Pic de Taza in the east. It inhabited the forests and wooded hills of the Constantine Province southward into the Aurès Mountains.[3]

    In the 1830s, lions may have already been eliminated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and near human settlements.[29]
    In Libya, the Barbary lion persisted along the coast until the beginning of the 18th century, and was extirpated in Tunisia by 1890.[30] By the mid-19th century, the Barbary lion population had massively declined, since bounties were paid for shooting lions. The cedar forests of Chelia and neighbouring mountains in Algeria harboured lions until about 1884.[3] The Barbary lion disappeared in the Bône region by 1890, in the Khroumire and Souk Ahras regions by 1891, and in Batna Province by 1893.[31]
    The last recorded shooting of a wild Barbary lion took place in 1942 near Tizi n’Tichka in the Moroccan part of the Atlas Mountains. A small remnant population may have survived in remote montane areas into the early 1960s.[6] The last known sighting of a lion in Algeria occurred in 1956 in Beni Ourtilane District.[6]

    Historical accounts indicate that in Egypt lions occurred in the Sinai Peninsula, along the Nile, in the Eastern and Western Deserts, in the region of Wadi El Natrun and along the maritime coast of the Mediterranean.[32] In the 14th century BC, Thutmose IV hunted lions in the hills near Memphis.[33] The growth of civilizations along the Nile and in the Sinai Peninsula by the beginning of the second millennium BC and desertification contributed to isolating lion populations in North Africa.[34]

    In the early 20th century, when Barbary lions were rare, they were sighted in pairs or in small family groups comprising a male and female lion with one or two cubs.[3] Between 1839 and 1942, sightings of wild lions involved solitary animals, pairs and family units. Analysis of these sightings indicate that lions retained living in prides even when under increasing persecution, particularly in the eastern Maghreb. The size of prides was likely similar to prides living in sub-Saharan habitats, whereas the density of the Barbary lion population is considered to have been lower than in moister habitats.[6]

    When Barbary stag (Cervus elaphus barbarus) and gazelles became scarce in the Atlas Mountains, lions preyed on herds of livestock that were carefully tended.[35] They also preyed on wild boar (Sus scrofa).[36]

    Sympatric predators in this region included the African leopard (P. pardus pardus) and Atlas bear (Ursus arctos crowtheri).[8][37]

    The lions kept in the menagerie at the Tower of London in the Middle Ages were Barbary lions, as shown by DNA testing on two well-preserved skulls excavated at the Tower between 1936 and 1937. The skulls were radiocarbon-dated to around 1280–1385 and 1420−1480.[34]
    In the 19th century and the early 20th century, lions were often kept in hotels and circus menageries. In 1835, the lions in the Tower of London were transferred to improved enclosures at the London Zoo on the orders of the Duke of Wellington.[38]

    The lions in the Rabat Zoo exhibited characteristics thought typical for the Barbary lion.[39] Nobles and Berber people presented lions as gifts to the royal family of Morocco. When the family was forced into exile in 1953, the lions in Rabat, numbering 21 altogether, were transferred to two zoos in the region. Three of these were shifted to a zoo in Casablanca, with the rest being shifted to Meknès. The lions at Meknès were moved back to the palace in 1955, but those at Casablanca never came back. In the late 1960s, new lion enclosures were built in Temara near Rabat.[15] Results of a mtDNA research revealed in 2006 that a lion kept in the German Zoo Neuwied originated from this collection and is very likely a descendant of a Barbary lion.[4]
    Five lion samples from this collection were not Barbary lions maternally. Nonetheless, genes of the Barbary lion are likely to be present in common European zoo lions, since this was one of the most frequently introduced subspecies. Many lions in European and American zoos, which are managed without subspecies classification, are most likely descendants of Barbary lions.[16] Several researchers and zoos supported the development of a studbook of lions directly descended from the King of Morocco’s collection.[28]

    At the beginning of the 21st century, the Addis Ababa Zoo kept 16 adult lions. With their dark, brown manes extending through the front legs, they looked like Barbary or Cape lions. Their ancestors were caught in southwestern Ethiopia as part of a zoological collection for Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.[40]

    The lion appeared frequently in early Egyptian art and literature.[41]
    Statues and statuettes of lions found at Hierakonpolis and Koptos in Upper Egypt date to the
    Early Dynastic Period.[42]
    The early Egyptian deity Mehit was depicted with a lion head.[43]
    In Ancient Egypt, the lion-headed deity Sekhmet was venerated as protector of the country.[44] She represented destructive power, but was also regarded as protector against famine and disease. Lion-headed figures and amulets were excavated in tombs in the Aegean islands of Crete, Euboea, Rhodes, Paros and Chios. They are associated with Sekhmet and date to the early Iron Age between the 9th and 6th centuries BC.[45]
    The remains of seven mostly subadult lions were excavated at the necropolis Umm El Qa’ab in a tomb of Hor-Aha, dated to the 31st century BC.[46]
    In 2001, the skeleton of a mummified lion was found in the tomb of Maïa in a necropolis dedicated to Tutankhamun at Saqqara.[47] It had probably lived and died in the Ptolemaic period, showed signs of malnutrition and had probably lived in captivity for many years.[48]

    In Roman North Africa, lions were regularly captured by experienced hunters for venatio spectacles in amphitheatres.[36][49]

    Morocco national football team is called “Atlas Lions”, and the supporters are usually seen wearing T-shirts with a lion’s face or wearing a lion suit.[50]

    Statue of Sekhmet in the temple of Ptah

    Lion statue dated to the Thirtieth Dynasty of Egypt 378−361 BC, exhibited in the Department of Egyptian Antiquities of the Louvre

    llustration of a Barbary lion by Joseph Bassett Holder, 1898

    Lion sculpture by Henri Jean Moreau, 1930, in Ifrane, Morocco

    Stuffed Barbary and Cape lions in the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle

    The dromedary’s relationships with the lion and mankind is depicted in this taxidermy diorama by Jules and Édouard Verreaux, which is called “Lion Attacking a Dromedary,” and was acquired by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, in 1898[51]

    “Urgent call for further breeding of the relic zoo population of the critically endangered Barbary lion (Panthera leo leo Linnaeus 1758)”Downloads-icon

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    “Lost populations and preserving genetic diversity in the lion Panthera leo: Implications for its ex situ conservation”Downloads-icon

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    “Maintaining the genetic health of putative Barbary lions in captivity: an analysis of Moroccan Royal Lions”Downloads-icon

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    Felidae (/ˈfɛlɪdiː/) is a family of mammals in the order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a clade. A member of this family is also called a felid (/ˈfiːlɪd/).[4][5][6][7] The term “cat” refers both to felids in general and specifically to the domestic cat (Felis catus).[8]

    Felidae species exhibit the most diverse fur pattern of all terrestrial carnivores.[9] Cats have retractile claws, slender muscular bodies and strong flexible forelimbs. Their teeth and facial muscles allow for a powerful bite. They are all obligate carnivores, and most are solitary predators ambushing or stalking their prey. Wild cats occur in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Some wild cat species are adapted to forest habitats, some to arid environments, and a few also to wetlands and mountainous terrain. Their activity patterns range from nocturnal and crepuscular to diurnal, depending on their preferred prey species.[10]

    Reginald Innes Pocock divided the extant Felidae into three subfamilies: the Pantherinae, the Felinae and the Acinonychinae, differing from each other by the ossification of the hyoid apparatus and by the cutaneous sheaths which protect their claws.[11]
    This concept has been revised following developments in molecular biology and techniques for analysis of morphological data. Today, the living Felidae are divided in two subfamilies: the Pantherinae and Felinae, with the Acinonychinae subsumed into the latter. Pantherinae includes five Panthera and two Neofelis species, while Felinae includes the other 34 species in ten genera.[12]

    The first cats emerged during the Oligocene about 25 million years ago, with the appearance of Proailurus and Pseudaelurus. The latter species complex was ancestral to two main lines of felids: the cats in the extant subfamilies and a group of extinct cats of the subfamily Machairodontinae, which include the saber-toothed cats such as the Smilodon. The “false sabre-toothed cats”, the Barbourofelidae and Nimravidae, are not true cats, but are closely related. Together with the Felidae, Viverridae, hyaenas and mongooses, they constitute the Feliformia.[8]

    lion species

    All members of the cat family have the following characteristics in common:

    The colour, length and density of their fur is very diverse. Fur colour covers the gamut from white to black, and fur pattern from distinctive small spots, stripes to small blotches and rosettes. Most cat species are born with a spotted fur, except the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) and caracal (Caracal caracal). The spotted fur of lion (Panthera leo) and cougar (Puma concolor) cubs change to a uniform fur during their ontogeny.[9] Those living in cold environments have thick fur with long hair, like the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) and the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul).[15] Those living in tropical and hot climate zones have short fur.[10] Several species exhibit melanism with all-black individuals.[26]

    In the great majority of cat species, the tail is between a third and a half of the body length, although with some exceptions, like the Lynx species and margay.[10] Cat species vary greatly in body and skull sizes, and weights:

    Most cat species have a haploid number of 18 or 19. Central and South American cats have a haploid number of 18, possibly due to the combination of two smaller chromosomes into a larger one.[31]

    Most cat species are also induced ovulators, although margays appear to be spontaneous ovulators.[16]

    The family Felidae is part of the Feliformia, a suborder that diverged probably about 50.6 to 35 million years ago into several families.[32] The Felidae and the Asiatic linsangs are considered a sister group, which split about 35.2 to 31.9 million years ago.[33]

  • 1200 divided by 4
  • The earliest cats probably appeared about 35 to 28.5 million years ago. Proailurus is the oldest known cat that occurred after the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event about 33.9 million years ago; fossil remains were excavated in France and Mongolia’s Hsanda Gol Formation.[8] Fossil occurrences indicate that the Felidae arrived in North America earliest 25 million years ago. This is about 20 million years ago later than the Ursidae and the Nimravidae, and about 10 million years later than the Canidae.[34]

    In the Early Miocene about 20 to 16.6 million years ago, Pseudaelurus lived in Africa. Its fossil jaws were also excavated in geological formations of Europe’s Vallesian, Asia’s Middle Miocene and North America’s late Hemingfordian to late Barstovian epochs.[35]

    In the Early or Middle Miocene, the sabre-toothed Machairodontinae evolved in Africa and migrated northwards in the Late Miocene.[36] With their large upper canines, they were adapted to prey on large-bodied megaherbivores.[37][38] Miomachairodus is the oldest known member of this subfamily. Metailurus lived in Africa and Eurasia about 8 to 6 million years ago. Several Paramachaerodus skeletons were found in Spain. Homotherium appeared in Africa, Eurasia and North America around 3.5 million years ago, and Megantereon about 3 million years ago. Smilodon lived in North and South America from about 2.5 million years ago. This subfamily became extinct in the Late Pleistocene.[36]

    Results of mitochondrial analysis indicate that the living Felidae species descended from a common ancestor, which originated in Asia in the Late Miocene epoch. They migrated to Africa, Europe and the Americas in the course of at least 10 migration waves during the past ~11 million years. Low sea levels, interglacial and glacial periods facilitated these migrations.[39] Panthera blytheae is the oldest known pantherine cat dated to the late Messinian to early Zanclean ages about 5.95 to 4.1 million years ago. A fossil skull was excavated in 2010 in Zanda County on the Tibetan Plateau.[40] Panthera palaeosinensis from North China probably dates to the Late Miocene or Early Pliocene. The skull of the holotype is similar to that of a lion or leopard.[41] Panthera zdanskyi dates to the Gelasian about 2.55 to 2.16 million years ago. Several fossil skulls and jawbones were excavated in northwestern China.[42] Panthera gombaszoegensis is the earliest known pantherine cat that lived in Europe about 1.95 to 1.77 million years ago.[43]

    Living felids fall into eight evolutionary lineages or species clades.[44][45] Genotyping of nuclear DNA of all 41 felid species revealed that hybridization between species occurred in the course of evolution within the majority of the eight lineages.[46]

    Modelling of felid coat pattern transformations revealed that nearly all patterns evolved from small spots.[47]

    Traditionally, five subfamilies have been distinguished within the Felidae based on phenotypical features: the Pantherinae, the Felinae, the Acinonychinae,[11] and the extinct Machairodontinae and Proailurinae.[3]

    The following cladogram based on Piras et al. (2013) depicts the phylogeny of basal living and extinct groups.[48]
    .mw-parser-output table.clade{border-spacing:0;margin:0;font-size:100%;line-height:100%;border-collapse:separate;width:auto}.mw-parser-output table.clade table.clade{width:100%;line-height:inherit}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-label{width:0.7em;padding:0 0.15em;vertical-align:bottom;text-align:center;border-left:1px solid;border-bottom:1px solid;white-space:nowrap}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-fixed-width{overflow:hidden;text-overflow:ellipsis}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-fixed-width:hover{overflow:visible}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-label.first{border-left:none;border-right:none}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-label.reverse{border-left:none;border-right:1px solid}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-slabel{padding:0 0.15em;vertical-align:top;text-align:center;border-left:1px solid;white-space:nowrap}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-slabel:hover{overflow:visible}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-slabel.last{border-left:none;border-right:none}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-slabel.reverse{border-left:none;border-right:1px solid}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-bar{vertical-align:middle;text-align:left;padding:0 0.5em;position:relative}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-bar.reverse{text-align:right;position:relative}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-leaf{border:0;padding:0;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-leafR{border:0;padding:0;text-align:right}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-leaf.reverse{text-align:right}.mw-parser-output table.clade:hover span.linkA{background-color:yellow}.mw-parser-output table.clade:hover span.linkB{background-color:green}

    †Proailurus bourbonnensis

    †Proailurus lemanensis

    †Proailurus major

    †Pseudaelurus quadridentatus

    †Pseudaelurus cuspidatus

    †Pseudaelurus guangheesis


    †Hyperailurictis intrepidus

    †Hyperailurictis marshi

    †Hyperailurictis stouti

    †Hyperailurictis validus

    †Hyperailurictis skinneri

    †Sivaelurus chinjiensis

    †Styriofelis turnauensis

    †Styriofelis romieviensis


    †Miopanthera lorteti

    †Miopanthera pamiri


    The phylogenetic relationships of living felids are shown in the following cladogram:[39][46]

    Leopard (P. pardus)

    lion species

    Lion (P. leo)

    Jaguar (P. onca)

    Snow leopard (P. uncia)

    Tiger (P. tigris)

    Clouded leopard (N. nebulosa)

    Sunda clouded leopard (N. diardi)

    Bay cat (C. badia)

    Asian golden cat (C. temminckii)

    Marbled cat (P. marmorata)

    Caracal (C. caracal)

    African golden cat (C. aurata)

    Serval (L. serval)

    Geoffroy’s cat (L. geoffroyi)

    Kodkod (L. guigna)

    Oncilla (L. tigrina)

    Andean mountain cat (L. jacobita)

    Pampas cat (L. colocola)

    Ocelot (L. pardalis)

    Margay (L. wiedii)

    Eurasian lynx (L. lynx)

    Iberian lynx (L. pardinus)

    Canada lynx (L. canadensis)

    Bobcat (L. rufus)

    Cougar (P. concolor)

    Jaguarundi (H. yagouaroundi)

    Cheetah (A. jubatus)

    Leopard cat (P. bengalensis)

    Fishing cat (P. viverrinus)

    Flat-headed cat (P. planiceps)

    Rusty-spotted cat (P. rubiginosus)

    Pallas’s cat (O. manul)

    Jungle cat (F. chaus)

    Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)

    Sand cat (F. margarita)

    Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti)

    African wildcat (F. lybica)

    European wildcat (F. silvestris)

    Domestic cat (F. catus)

    Domestic cat lineage    

    “Felid phylogenetics: extant taxa and skull morphology (Felidae, Aeluroidea)”Downloads-icon

    “A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group”Downloads-icon

    “Stimulus and hormonal determinants of flehmen behavior in cats”Downloads-icon

    “Phylogenetic systematics of North American Pseudaelurus (Carnivora: Felidae)”Downloads-icon

    “Majestic killers: the sabre-toothed cats”Downloads-icon

    see text

    Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexually, and go through an ontogenetic stage in which their body consists of a hollow sphere of cells, the blastula, during embryonic development. Over 1.5 million living animal species have been described—of which around 1 million are insects—but it has been estimated there are over 7 million animal species in total. Animals range in length from 8.5 micrometres (0.00033 in) to 33.6 metres (110 ft). They have complex interactions with each other and their environments, forming intricate food webs. The scientific study of animals is known as zoology.

    Most living animal species are in Bilateria, a clade whose members have a bilaterally symmetric body plan. The Bilateria include the protostomes, containing invertebrates such as nematodes, arthropods, and molluscs, and the deuterostomes, containing the echinoderms and the chordates, the latter including the vertebrates. Life forms interpreted as early animals were present in the Ediacaran biota of the late Precambrian. Many modern animal phyla became clearly established in the fossil record as marine species during the Cambrian explosion, which began around 542 million years ago. 6,331 groups of genes common to all living animals have been identified; these may have arisen from a single common ancestor that lived 650 million years ago.

    lion species

    Historically, Aristotle divided animals into those with blood and those without. Carl Linnaeus created the first hierarchical biological classification for animals in 1758 with his Systema Naturae, which Jean-Baptiste Lamarck expanded into 14 phyla by 1809. In 1874, Ernst Haeckel divided the animal kingdom into the multicellular Metazoa (now synonymous for Animalia) and the Protozoa, single-celled organisms no longer considered animals. In modern times, the biological classification of animals relies on advanced techniques, such as molecular phylogenetics, which are effective at demonstrating the evolutionary relationships between taxa.

    Humans make use of many animal species, such as for food (including meat, milk, and eggs), for materials (such as leather and wool), as pets, and as working animals including for transport. Dogs have been used in hunting, as have birds of prey, while many terrestrial and aquatic animals were hunted for sports. Nonhuman animals have appeared in art from the earliest times and are featured in mythology and religion.

    The word animal comes from the Latin animalis, meaning ‘having breath’, ‘having soul’ or ‘living being’.[1] The biological definition includes all members of the kingdom Animalia.[2] In colloquial usage, the term animal is often used to refer only to nonhuman animals.[3][4][5][6]

    Animals have several characteristics that set them apart from other living things. Animals are eukaryotic and multicellular.[7][8] Unlike plants and algae, which produce their own nutrients[9] animals are heterotrophic,[8][10] feeding on organic material and digesting it internally.[11] With very few exceptions, animals respire aerobically.[12] All animals are motile[13] (able to spontaneously move their bodies) during at least part of their life cycle, but some animals, such as sponges, corals, mussels, and barnacles, later become sessile. The blastula is a stage in embryonic development that is unique to animals,[14] (though it has been lost in some) allowing cells to be differentiated into specialised tissues and organs.

    All animals are composed of cells, surrounded by a characteristic extracellular matrix composed of collagen and elastic glycoproteins.[15] During development, the animal extracellular matrix forms a relatively flexible framework upon which cells can move about and be reorganised, making the formation of complex structures possible. This may be calcified, forming structures such as shells, bones, and spicules.[16] In contrast, the cells of other multicellular organisms (primarily algae, plants, and fungi) are held in place by cell walls, and so develop by progressive growth.[17] Animal cells uniquely possess the cell junctions called tight junctions, gap junctions, and desmosomes.[18]

    With few exceptions—in particular, the sponges and placozoans—animal bodies are differentiated into tissues.[19] These include muscles, which enable locomotion, and nerve tissues, which transmit signals and coordinate the body. Typically, there is also an internal digestive chamber with either one opening (in Ctenophora, Cnidaria, and flatworms) or two openings (in most bilaterians).[20]

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  • Nearly all animals make use of some form of sexual reproduction.[21] They produce haploid gametes by meiosis; the smaller, motile gametes are spermatozoa and the larger, non-motile gametes are ova.[22] These fuse to form zygotes,[23] which develop via mitosis into a hollow sphere, called a blastula. In sponges, blastula larvae swim to a new location, attach to the seabed, and develop into a new sponge.[24] In most other groups, the blastula undergoes more complicated rearrangement.[25] It first invaginates to form a gastrula with a digestive chamber and two separate germ layers, an external ectoderm and an internal endoderm.[26] In most cases, a third germ layer, the mesoderm, also develops between them.[27] These germ layers then differentiate to form tissues and organs.[28]

    Repeated instances of mating with a close relative during sexual reproduction generally leads to inbreeding depression within a population due to the increased prevalence of harmful recessive traits.[29][30] Animals have evolved numerous mechanisms for avoiding close inbreeding.[31]

    Some animals are capable of asexual reproduction, which often results in a genetic clone of the parent. This may take place through fragmentation; budding, such as in Hydra and other cnidarians; or parthenogenesis, where fertile eggs are produced without mating, such as in aphids.[32][33]

    Animals are categorised into ecological groups depending on how they obtain or consume organic material, including carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, detritivores,[34] and parasites.[35] Interactions between animals form complex food webs. In carnivorous or omnivorous species, predation is a consumer-resource interaction where a predator feeds on another organism (called its prey).[36] Selective pressures imposed on one another lead to an evolutionary arms race between predator and prey, resulting in various anti-predator adaptations.[37][38] Almost all multicellular predators are animals.[39] Some consumers use multiple methods; for example, in parasitoid wasps, the larvae feed on the hosts’ living tissues, killing them in the process,[40] but the adults primarily consume nectar from flowers.[41] Other animals may have very specific feeding behaviours, such as hawksbill sea turtles primarily eating sponges.[42]

    Most animals rely on the biomass and energy produced by plants through photosynthesis. Herbivores eat plant material directly, while carnivores, and other animals on higher trophic levels typically acquire it indirectly by eating other animals. Animals oxidize carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and other biomolecules to unlock the chemical energy of molecular oxygen,[43] which allows the animal to grow and to sustain biological processes such as locomotion.[44][45][46] Animals living close to hydrothermal vents and cold seeps on the dark sea floor consume organic matter of archaea and bacteria produced in these locations through chemosynthesis (by oxidizing inorganic compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide).[47]

    Animals originally evolved in the sea. Lineages of arthropods colonised land around the same time as land plants, probably between 510 and 471 million years ago during the Late Cambrian or Early Ordovician.[48] Vertebrates such as the lobe-finned fish Tiktaalik started to move on to land in the late Devonian, about 375 million years ago.[49][50] Animals occupy virtually all of earth’s habitats and microhabitats, including salt water, hydrothermal vents, fresh water, hot springs, swamps, forests, pastures, deserts, air, and the interiors of animals, plants, fungi and rocks.[51] Animals are however not particularly heat tolerant; very few of them can survive at constant temperatures above 50 °C (122 °F).[52] Only very few species of animals (mostly nematodes) inhabit the most extreme cold deserts of continental Antarctica.[53]

    The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest animal that has ever lived, weighing up to 190 tonnes and measuring up to 33.6 metres (110 ft) long.[54][55][56] The largest extant terrestrial animal is the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), weighing up to 12.25 tonnes[54] and measuring up to 10.67 metres (35.0 ft) long.[54] The largest terrestrial animals that ever lived were titanosaur sauropod dinosaurs such as Argentinosaurus, which may have weighed as much as 73 tonnes.[57] Several animals are microscopic; some Myxozoa (obligate parasites within the Cnidaria) never grow larger than 20 µm,[58] and one of the smallest species (Myxobolus shekel) is no more than 8.5 µm when fully grown.[59]

    The following table lists estimated numbers of described extant species for the animal groups with the largest numbers of species,[60] along with their principal habitats (terrestrial, fresh water,[61] and marine),[62] and free-living or parasitic ways of life.[63] Species estimates shown here are based on numbers described scientifically; much larger estimates have been calculated based on various means of prediction, and these can vary wildly. For instance, around 25,000–27,000 species of nematodes have been described, while published estimates of the total number of nematode species include 10,000–20,000; 500,000; 10 million; and 100 million.[64] Using patterns within the taxonomic hierarchy, the total number of animal species—including those not yet described—was calculated to be about 7.77 million in 2011.[65][66][a]



    The first fossils that might represent animals appear in the 665-million-year-old rocks of the Trezona Formation of South Australia. These fossils are interpreted as most probably being early sponges.[79]

    Animals are found as long ago as the Ediacaran biota, towards the end of the Precambrian, and possibly somewhat earlier. It had long been doubted whether these life-forms included animals,[80][81][82] but the discovery of the animal lipid cholesterol in fossils of Dickinsonia establishes their nature.[78] Animals are thought to have originated under low-oxygen conditions, suggesting that they were capable of living entirely by anaerobic respiration, but as they became specialized for aerobic metabolism they became fully dependent on oxygen in their environments.[83]

    Many animal phyla first appear in the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion, starting about 542 million years ago, in beds such as the Burgess shale. Extant phyla in these rocks include molluscs, brachiopods, onychophorans, tardigrades, arthropods, echinoderms and hemichordates, along with numerous now-extinct forms such as the predatory Anomalocaris. The apparent suddenness of the event may however be an artefact of the fossil record, rather than showing that all these animals appeared simultaneously.[84][85][86][87]

    Some palaeontologists have suggested that animals appeared much earlier than the Cambrian explosion, possibly as early as 1 billion years ago.[88] Trace fossils such as tracks and burrows found in the Tonian period may indicate the presence of triploblastic worm-like animals, roughly as large (about 5 mm wide) and complex as earthworms.[89] However, similar tracks are produced today by the giant single-celled protist Gromia sphaerica, so the Tonian trace fossils may not indicate early animal evolution.[90][91] Around the same time, the layered mats of microorganisms called stromatolites decreased in diversity, perhaps due to grazing by newly evolved animals.[92]

    Animals are monophyletic, meaning they are derived from a common ancestor. Animals are sister to the Choanoflagellata, with which they form the Choanozoa.[93] The most basal animals, the Porifera, Ctenophora, Cnidaria, and Placozoa, have body plans that lack bilateral symmetry. Their relationships are still disputed; the sister group to all other animals could be the Porifera or the Ctenophora,[94] both of which lack hox genes, important in body plan development.[95]

    These genes are found in the Placozoa[96][97] and the higher animals, the Bilateria.[98][99] 6,331 groups of genes common to all living animals have been identified; these may have arisen from a single common ancestor that lived 650 million years ago in the Precambrian. 25 of these are novel core gene groups, found only in animals; of those, 8 are for essential components of the Wnt and TGF-beta signalling pathways which may have enabled animals to become multicellular by providing a pattern for the body’s system of axes (in three dimensions), and another 7 are for transcription factors including homeodomain proteins involved in the control of development.[100][101]

    The phylogenetic tree (of major lineages only) indicates approximately how many millions of years ago (mya) the lineages split.[102][103][104][105][106]












    Rotifera and allies

    lion species


    Platyhelminthes and allies

    Mollusca and allies

    Annelida and allies

    Several animal phyla lack bilateral symmetry. Among these, the sponges (Porifera) probably diverged first, representing the oldest animal phylum.[107] Sponges lack the complex organization found in most other animal phyla;[108] their cells are differentiated, but in most cases not organised into distinct tissues.[109] They typically feed by drawing in water through pores.[110]

    The Ctenophora (comb jellies) and Cnidaria (which includes jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals) are radially symmetric and have digestive chambers with a single opening, which serves as both mouth and anus.[111] Animals in both phyla have distinct tissues, but these are not organised into organs.[112] They are diploblastic, having only two main germ layers, ectoderm and endoderm.[113] The tiny placozoans are similar, but they do not have a permanent digestive chamber.[114][115]

    The remaining animals, the great majority—comprising some 29 phyla and over a million species—form a clade, the Bilateria. The body is triploblastic, with three well-developed germ layers, and their tissues form distinct organs. The digestive chamber has two openings, a mouth and an anus, and there is an internal body cavity, a coelom or pseudocoelom. Animals with this bilaterally symmetric body plan and a tendency to move in one direction have a head end (anterior) and a tail end (posterior) as well as a back (dorsal) and a belly (ventral); therefore they also have a left side and a right side.[116][117]

    Having a front end means that this part of the body encounters stimuli, such as food, favouring cephalisation, the development of a head with sense organs and a mouth. Many bilaterians have a combination of circular muscles that constrict the body, making it longer, and an opposing set of longitudinal muscles, that shorten the body;[117] these enable soft-bodied animals with a hydrostatic skeleton to move by peristalsis.[118] They also have a gut that extends through the basically cylindrical body from mouth to anus. Many bilaterian phyla have primary larvae which swim with cilia and have an apical organ containing sensory cells. However, there are exceptions to each of these characteristics; for example, adult echinoderms are radially symmetric (unlike their larvae), while some parasitic worms have extremely simplified body structures.[116][117]

    Genetic studies have considerably changed zoologists’ understanding of the relationships within the Bilateria. Most appear to belong to two major lineages, the protostomes and the deuterostomes.[119] The basalmost bilaterians are the Xenacoelomorpha.[120][121][122]

    Protostomes and deuterostomes differ in several ways. Early in development, deuterostome embryos undergo radial cleavage during cell division, while many protostomes (the Spiralia) undergo spiral cleavage.[123]
    Animals from both groups possess a complete digestive tract, but in protostomes the first opening of the embryonic gut develops into the mouth, and the anus forms secondarily. In deuterostomes, the anus forms first while the mouth develops secondarily.[124][125] Most protostomes have schizocoelous development, where cells simply fill in the interior of the gastrula to form the mesoderm. In deuterostomes, the mesoderm forms by enterocoelic pouching, through invagination of the endoderm.[126]

    The main deuterostome phyla are the Echinodermata and the Chordata.[127] Echinoderms are exclusively marine and include starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers.[128] The chordates are dominated by the vertebrates (animals with backbones),[129] which consist of fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.[130] The deuterostomes also include the Hemichordata (acorn worms).[131][132]

    The Ecdysozoa are protostomes, named after their shared trait of ecdysis, growth by moulting.[133] They include the largest animal phylum, the Arthropoda, which contains insects, spiders, crabs, and their kin. All of these have a body divided into repeating segments, typically with paired appendages. Two smaller phyla, the Onychophora and Tardigrada, are close relatives of the arthropods and share these traits. The ecdysozoans also include the Nematoda or roundworms, perhaps the second largest animal phylum. Roundworms are typically microscopic, and occur in nearly every environment where there is water;[134] some are important parasites.[135] Smaller phyla related to them are the Nematomorpha or horsehair worms, and the Kinorhyncha, Priapulida, and Loricifera. These groups have a reduced coelom, called a pseudocoelom.[136]

    The Spiralia are a large group of protostomes that develop by spiral cleavage in the early embryo.[137] The Spiralia’s phylogeny has been disputed, but it contains a large clade, the superphylum Lophotrochozoa, and smaller groups of phyla such as the Rouphozoa which includes the gastrotrichs and the flatworms. All of these are grouped as the Platytrochozoa, which has a sister group, the Gnathifera, which includes the rotifers.[138][139]

    The Lophotrochozoa includes the molluscs, annelids, brachiopods, nemerteans, bryozoa and entoprocts.[138][140][141] The molluscs, the second-largest animal phylum by number of described species, includes snails, clams, and squids, while the annelids are the segmented worms, such as earthworms, lugworms, and leeches. These two groups have long been considered close relatives because they share trochophore larvae.[142][143]

    In the classical era, Aristotle divided animals,[d] based on his own observations, into those with blood (roughly, the vertebrates) and those without. The animals were then arranged on a scale from man (with blood, 2 legs, rational soul) down through the live-bearing tetrapods (with blood, 4 legs, sensitive soul) and other groups such as crustaceans (no blood, many legs, sensitive soul) down to spontaneously-generating creatures like sponges (no blood, no legs, vegetable soul). Aristotle was uncertain whether sponges were animals, which in his system ought to have sensation, appetite, and locomotion, or plants, which did not: he knew that sponges could sense touch, and would contract if about to be pulled off their rocks, but that they were rooted like plants and never moved about.[145]

    In 1758, Carl Linnaeus created the first hierarchical classification in his Systema Naturae.[146] In his original scheme, the animals were one of three kingdoms, divided into the classes of Vermes, Insecta, Pisces, Amphibia, Aves, and Mammalia. Since then the last four have all been subsumed into a single phylum, the Chordata, while his Insecta (which included the crustaceans and arachnids) and Vermes have been renamed or broken up. The process was begun in 1793 by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, who called the Vermes une espèce de chaos (a chaotic mess)[e] and split the group into three new phyla, worms, echinoderms, and polyps (which contained corals and jellyfish). By 1809, in his Philosophie Zoologique, Lamarck had created 9 phyla apart from vertebrates (where he still had 4 phyla: mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish) and molluscs, namely cirripedes, annelids, crustaceans, arachnids, insects, worms, radiates, polyps, and infusorians.[144]

    In his 1817 Le Règne Animal, Georges Cuvier used comparative anatomy to group the animals into four embranchements (“branches” with different body plans, roughly corresponding to phyla), namely vertebrates, molluscs, articulated animals (arthropods and annelids), and zoophytes (radiata) (echinoderms, cnidaria and other forms).[148] This division into four was followed by the embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer in 1828, the zoologist Louis Agassiz in 1857, and the comparative anatomist Richard Owen in 1860.[149]

    In 1874, Ernst Haeckel divided the animal kingdom into two subkingdoms: Metazoa (multicellular animals, with five phyla: coelenterates, echinoderms, articulates, molluscs, and vertebrates) and Protozoa (single-celled animals), including a sixth animal phylum, sponges.[150][149] The protozoa were later moved to the former kingdom Protista, leaving only the Metazoa as a synonym of Animalia.[151]

    The human population exploits a large number of other animal species for food, both of domesticated livestock species in animal husbandry and, mainly at sea, by hunting wild species.[152][153] Marine fish of many species are caught commercially for food. A smaller number of species are farmed commercially.[152][154][155] Humans and their livestock make up more than 90% of the biomass of all terrestrial vertebrates, and almost as much as all insects combined.[156]

    Invertebrates including cephalopods, crustaceans, and bivalve or gastropod molluscs are hunted or farmed for food.[157]
    Chickens, cattle, sheep, pigs, and other animals are raised as livestock for meat across the world.[153][158][159]
    Animal fibres such as wool are used to make textiles, while animal sinews have been used as lashings and bindings, and leather is widely used to make shoes and other items. Animals have been hunted and farmed for their fur to make items such as coats and hats.[160] Dyestuffs including carmine (cochineal),[161][162] shellac,[163][164] and kermes[165][166] have been made from the bodies of insects. Working animals including cattle and horses have been used for work and transport from the first days of agriculture.[167]

    Animals such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster serve a major role in science as experimental models.[168][169][170][171] Animals have been used to create vaccines since their discovery in the 18th century.[172] Some medicines such as the cancer drug Yondelis are based on toxins or other molecules of animal origin.[173]

    People have used hunting dogs to help chase down and retrieve animals,[174] and birds of prey to catch birds and mammals,[175] while tethered cormorants have been used to catch fish.[176] Poison dart frogs have been used to poison the tips of blowpipe darts.[177][178]
    A wide variety of animals are kept as pets, from invertebrates such as tarantulas and octopuses, insects including praying mantises,[179] reptiles such as snakes and chameleons,[180] and birds including canaries, parakeets, and parrots[181] all finding a place. However, the most kept pet species are mammals, namely dogs, cats, and rabbits.[182][183][184] There is a tension between the role of animals as companions to humans, and their existence as individuals with rights of their own.[185]
    A wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic animals are hunted for sport.[186]

    Animals have been the subjects of art from the earliest times, both historical, as in Ancient Egypt, and prehistoric, as in the cave paintings at Lascaux. Major animal paintings include Albrecht Dürer’s 1515 The Rhinoceros, and George Stubbs’s c. 1762 horse portrait Whistlejacket.[187]
    Insects, birds and mammals play roles in literature and film,[188] such as in giant bug movies.[189][190][191] Animals including insects[192] and mammals[193] feature in mythology and religion. In both Japan and Europe, a butterfly was seen as the personification of a person’s soul,[192][194][195] while the scarab beetle was sacred in ancient Egypt.[196] Among the mammals, cattle,[197] deer,[193] horses,[198] lions,[199] bats,[200] bears,[201] and wolves[202] are the subjects of myths and worship. The signs of the Western and Chinese zodiacs are based on animals.[203][204]



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    Carnivora /kɑːrˈnɪvərə/ is an order of placental mammals that have specialized in primarily eating flesh. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, though some species are omnivorous, such as raccoons and bears, and very few species such as pandas are specialized herbivores. The word carnivore is derived from Latin carō (stem carn-) ‘flesh’ and vorāre ‘to devour’, and refers to any meat-eating organism. The order Carnivora is the fifth largest order of mammals and one of the more successful members of the group, as it comprises at least 279 species.

    Carnivorans live on every major landmass and in a variety of habitats, ranging the cold polar regions to the hyper-arid region of the Sahara Desert to the open seas. They come in a very large array of different body plans in contrasting shapes and sizes. The smallest carnivoran is the least weasel (Mustela nivalis) with a body length of about 11 cm (4.3 in) and a weight of about 25 g (0.88 oz). The largest is the southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina), with adult males weighing up to 4,000 kg (8,800 lb) and measuring up to 3.7 m (12 ft).

    The closest living relatives of carnivorans are pangolins, with the two groups together forming the clade Ferae. The oldest known carnivoran line mammals (Carnivoramorpha) appeared in North America 6 million years after the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.[4][5] These early ancestors of carnivorans would have resembled small weasel or genet-like mammals, occupying a nocturnal shift on the forest floor or in the trees, as other groups of mammals like the mesonychians and later the creodonts were occupying the megafaunal faunivorous niche. However, following the extinction of mesonychians and the oxyaenid creodonts at the end of the Eocene, carnivorans quickly moved into this niche, with forms like the nimravids being the dominant large-bodied ambush predators during the Oligocene alongside the hyaenodont creodonts (which similarly produced larger, more open-country forms at the start of the Oligocene). By the time Miocene epoch appeared, most if not all of the major lineages and families of carnivorans had diversified and become the most dominant group of large terrestrial predators in Eurasia and North America, with various lineages being successful in megafaunal faunivorous niches at different intervals during the Miocene and later epochs.

    Carnivora can be divided into two subclades: the cat-like Feliformia and the dog-like Caniformia, which are differentiated based on the structure of their ear bones and cranial features. The feliforms include families such as the cats, the hyenas, the mongooses and the viverrids. The majority of feliform species are found in the Old World, though the cats and one extinct genus of hyena have successfully diversified into the Americas. The caniforms include the dogs, bears, raccoons, weasels, and pinnipeds. Members of this group are found worldwide and with incredible diversity in their diet, behavior, and morphology.

    lion species

    Despite this the two groups of carnivorans share several unique traits, one being the presence of the carnassial teeth. In carnivorans the carnassial pair is made up by the fourth upper premolar and the first lower molar teeth. There is variation among the carnassial pair depending on the family. Some species are cursorial and the foot posture in terrestrial species is either digitigrade or plantigrade. In pinnipeds the feet have become flippers where the locomotion is unique in each of the pinniped families.

    Carnivorans are arguably the group of mammals of most interest to humans. The dog is noteworthy for not only being the first species of carnivoran to be domesticated, but also the first species of any taxon. In the last 10,000 to 12,000 years humans have selectively bred dogs for a variety of different tasks and today there are well over 400 breeds. The cat is another domesticated carnivoran and it is today considered one of the most successful species on the planet, due to their close proximity to humans and the popularity of cats as pets. Many other species are popular, and they are often charismatic megafauna. Many civilizations have incorporated a species of carnivoran into their culture such as the lion, viewed as royalty. Yet many species such as wolves and the big cats have been broadly hunted, resulting in extirpation in some areas. Habitat loss and human encroachment as well as climate change have been the primary cause of many species going into decline. Four species of carnivorans have gone extinct since the 1600s: Falkland Island Wolf (Dusicyon australis) in 1876; the Sea Mink (Neogale macrodon) in 1894; the Japanese Sea Lion (Zalophus japonicus) in 1951 and the Caribbean Monk Seal (Neomonachus tropicalis) in 1952.[4] Some species such as the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and stoat (Mustela erminea) have been introduced to Australasia and have caused many native species to become endangered or even extinct.[6]

    The order Carnivora belongs to a group of mammals known as Laurasiatheria, which also includes other groups such as bats and ungulates.[7][8] Within this group the carnivorans are placed in the clade Ferae. Ferae includes the closest extant relative of carnivorans, the pangolins, as well as several extinct groups of mostly Paleogene carnivorous placentals such as the creodonts, the arctocyonians, and mesonychians.[9] The creodonts were originally thought of as the sister taxon to the carnivorans, perhaps even ancestral to, based on the presence of the carnassial teeth.[10] but the nature of the carnassial teeth is different between the two groups. In carnivorans the carnassials are positioned near the front of the molar row, while in the creodonts they are positioned near the back of the molar row.[11] and this suggests a separate evolutionary history and an order-level distinction.[12] In addition recent phylogenetic analysis suggests that creodonts are more closely related to pangolins while mesonychians might be the sister group to carnivorans and their stem-relatives.[9]

    The closest stem-carnivorans are the miacoids. The miacoids include the families Viverravidae and Miacidae, and together the Carnivora and Miacoidea form the stem-clade Carnivoramorpha. The miacoids were small, genet-like carnivoramorphs that occupy a variety of niches such as terrestrial and arboreal habitats. Recent studies have shown a supporting amount of evidence that Miacoidea is an evolutionary grade of carnivoramorphs that, while viverravids are monophyletic basal group, the miacids are paraphyletic in respect to Carnivora (as shown in the phylogeny below).[13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]



  • 12kg in pounds
  • †Hyaenodonta (sensu stricto)




    †carnivoramorph sp. (UALVP 50993 & UALVP 50994)


    †carnivoramorph sp. (UALVP 31176)

    †carnivoramorph sp. (WW-84: USNM 538395)


    †carnivoraform undet. Genus A (UCMP 110072)

    †”Miacis” medius

    †carnivoraform undet. Genus B (SDSNH 56335)



    †”Miacis” exiguus



    †”Miacis” deutschi





    †”Miacis” lushiensis

    †”Miacis” thailandicus

    †”Miacis” invictus


    †carnivoraform sp. (PM 3868)


    †”Miacis” petilus

    lion species

    †”Miacis” latidens

    †”Miacis” boqinghensis

    †”Miacis” hookwayi

    †”Miacis” vulpinus











    Carnivoramorpha as a whole first appeared in the Paleocene of North America about 60 million years ago.[5] Crown carnivorans first appeared around 42 million years ago in the Middle Eocene.[1] Their molecular phylogeny shows the extant Carnivora are a monophyletic group, the crown group of the Carnivoramorpha.[21] From there carnivorans have split into two clades based on the composition of the bony structures that surround the middle ear of the skull, the cat-like feliforms and the dog-like caniforms.[22] In feliforms, the auditory bullae are double-chambered, composed of two bones joined by a septum. Caniforms have single-chambered or partially divided auditory bullae, composed of a single bone.[23] Initially the early representatives of carnivorans were small as the creodonts (specifically, the oxyaenids) and mesonychians dominated the apex predator niches during the Eocene, but in the Oligocene carnivorans became a dominant group of apex predators with the nimravids, and by the Miocene most of the extant carnivoran families have diversified and become the primary terrestrial predators in the Northern Hemisphere.

    The phylogenetic relationships of the carnivorans are shown in the following cladogram:[24][25][26][27][28]

    †Miacidae (paraphyletic family)




    Hyaenidae (hyaenas)


    Herpestidae (mongooses)

    Eupleridae (Malagasy carnivorans)

    Viverridae (viverrids)





    Prionodontidae (Asiatic linsangs)








    Felidae (cats)

    Nandiniidae (African palm civet)

    †Nimravidae (false saber-toothed cats)


    †Amphicyonidae (“bear-dogs”)


    Canidae (canids)

    Ursidae (bears)


    Procyonidae (raccoons)


    Mephitidae (skunks)


    Mustelidae (mustelids)







    Otariidae(eared seals)



    Phocidae(earless seals)

    In 1758 the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus placed all carnivorans known at the time into the group Ferae (not to be confused with the modern concept of Ferae which also includes pangolins) in the tenth edition of his book Systema Naturae. He recognized six genera: Canis (canids and hyaenids), Phoca (pinnipeds), Felis (felids), Viverra (viverrids, herpestids, and mephitids), Mustela (non-badger mustelids), Ursus (ursids, large species of mustelids, and procyonids).[29] It wasn’t until 1821 that the English writer and traveler Thomas Edward Bowdich gave the group its modern and accepted name.[3]

    Initially the modern concept of Carnivora was divided into two suborders: the terrestrial Fissipedia and the marine Pinnipedia.[30] Below is the classification of how the extant families were related to each other after American paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson in 1945:[30]

    Since then, however, the methods in which mammalogists use to assess the phylogenetic relationships among the carnivoran families has been improved with using more complicated and intensive incorporation of genetics, morphology and the fossil record. Research into Carnivora phylogeny since 1945 has found Fisspedia to be paraphlyetic in respect to Pinnipedia,[31] with pinnipeds being either more closely related to bears or to weasels.[32][33][34][35][36] The small carnivoran families Viverridae,[37] Procyonidae, and Mustelidae have been found to be polyphyletic:

    Below is a table chart of the extant carnivoran families and number of extant species recognized by various authors of the first and fourth volumes of Handbook of the Mammals of the World published in 2009[48] and 2014[49] respectively:

    The canine teeth are usually large and conical. The canines are thick and incredibly stress resistant. All of the terrestrial species of carnivorans have three incisors on the top and bottom row of the dentition (the exception being is the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) which only has two lower incisor teeth).[50][51] The third molar has been lost. The carnassial pair is made up by the fourth upper premolar and the first lower molar teeth. Like most mammals the dentition is heterodont in nature, though in some species like the aardwolf (Proteles cristata) the teeth have been greatly reduced and the cheek teeth are specialised for eating insects. In pinnipeds the teeth are homodont as they have evolved to grasp or to catch fish, and the cheek teeth are often lost.[51] In bears and raccoons the carnassial pair is secondarily reduced.[51] The skulls are heavily built with a strong zygomatic arch.[51] Often a sagittal crest is present, sometimes more evident in sexual dimorphic species like sea lions and fur seals, though it has also been greatly reduced seen in some small carnivorans.[51] The braincase is enlarged and the frontoparietal is position at the front of it. In most species the eyes are position at the front of the face. In caniforms the rostrum is usually longer with many teeth, where in comparison with felifoms the rostrum is shorter and have fewer teeth. The carnassial teeth in feliforms, however is more sectional.[51] The turbinates are large and complex in comparison to other mammals, providing a large surface area for olfactory receptors.[51]

    Aside from an accumulation of characteristics in the dental and cranial features, not much of their overall anatomy unites them as a group.[50] All species of carnivorans have quadrupedal limbs with usually five digits at the front feet and four digits at the back feet. In terrestrial carnivorans the feet have soft pads. The feet can either be digitigrade seen in cats, hyenas and dogs or plantigrade seen in bears, skunks, raccoons, weasels, civets and mongooses. In pinnipeds the limbs have been modified into flippers. Unlike other marine mammals, such as cetaceans and sirenians which have fully functional tails to help them swim, pinnipeds use their limbs underwater for locomotion.

    In earless seals they use their back flippers; sea lions and fur seals use their front flippers, and the walrus use all of their limbs. This resulted in pinnipeds having significantly shorter tails. Aside from the pinnipeds, dogs, bears, hyenas, and cats have distinct and recognizable appearances. Dogs are usually cursorial mammals and are gracile in appearance, often relying on their teeth to hold to prey; bears are much larger and rely on their physical strength to forage for food. Cats in comparison to dogs and bears have much longer and stronger frontlimbs armed with retractable claws to hold on to prey. Hyenas are dog-like feliforms that have sloping backs due to their front legs being longer than their hindlegs. The raccoon family as well as the red panda are small, bear-like carnivorans with long tails. The other small carnivoran families Nandiniidae, Prionodontidae, Viverridae, Herpestidae, Eupleridae, Mephitidae and Mustelidae have through convergent evolution maintained the small, ancestral appearance of the miacoids, though there is some variation seen such as the robust and stout physicality of badgers and the wolverine (Gulo gulo).[50] Male carnivorans usually have bacula, though they are absent in hyenas and binturongs.[52]

    Depending on the environment the species is, the length and density of their fur varies. In warm climate species the fur is often short in length and lighter. In comparison to cold climate species the fur is either dense or long, often with an oily substance to keep them warm. The pelage coloration comes in many colors, often including black, white, orange, yellow, red, and many shades of gray and brown. There can be colored patterns too, such striped, spotted, blotched, banded, or otherwise boldly patterned. There seems to be a correlation between habitat and color pattern as for example spotted or banded species tend to be found in heavily forested environments.[50] Some species like the grey wolf is a polymorphic species with different individual variation in colors. The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) and the stoat (Mustela erminea) the fur goes from white and dense in the winter to brown and sparse in the summer. In pinnipeds, polar bears, and sea otters have a thick insulating layer of blubber to help maintain their body temperature.

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    African lions have been admired throughout history for as symbols of courage and strength. These iconic animals have powerful bodies—in the cat family, they’re second in size only to tigers—and roars that can be heard from five miles away. An adult lion’s coat is yellow-gold, and juveniles have some light spots that disappear with age. Only male lions typically boast manes, the impressive fringe of long hair that encircles their heads.

    African lions once roamed most of Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. But the species has disappeared from 94 percent of its historic range and can only be found today in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. These lions mainly stick to the grasslands, scrub, or open woodlands where they can more easily hunt their prey, but they can live in most habitats aside from tropical rainforests and deserts.

    Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) are a subspecies of African lion, but only one very small population survives in India’s Gir Forest.

    Lions are the only cats that live in groups, which are called prides—though there is one population of solitary lions. Prides are family units that may comprise anywhere from two to 40 lions—including up to to three or four males, a dozen or so females, and their young. All of a pride’s lionesses are related, and female cubs typically stay with the group as they age. Young males eventually leave and establish their own prides by taking over a group headed by another male.

    Males defend the pride’s territory, marking the area with urine, roaring menacingly to warn intruders, and chasing off animals that encroach on their turf.

    lion species

    Female lions are the pride’s primary hunters and leaders. They often work together to prey upon antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, and other large animals of the open grasslands. Many of these animals are faster than lions, so teamwork pays off. Female lions also raise their cubs communally.

    After the hunt, the group effort often degenerates to squabbling over the sharing of the kill, with cubs at the bottom of the pecking order. Young lions do not help to hunt until they are about a year old. Lions will hunt alone if the opportunity presents itself, and they also steal kills from hyenas or wild dogs.

    Today, there are only half as many African lions than there were 25 years ago. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that fewer than 25,000 lions remain in Africa, which is why the organization classifies them as vulnerable to extinction.

    African lions face a variety of threats—most of which can be attributed to humans. Fearing that lions will prey on their livestock, which can be a significant financial blow, ranchers may kill the animals both in retaliation and as a preventative measure, sometimes using pesticides as poison. Poachers target the species, too, as their bones and other body parts are valuable in the illegal wildlife trade.

    The role trophy hunting plays is controversial. Mismanaged hunting in the past has caused lions to disappear from some habitats, while hunters and those involved in the industry say hunting fees generate money for lion conservation. National Geographic Explorer Craig Packer, however, has said the amount generated by hunting is so “underwhelming…[that] it’s no wonder that despite years of lion hunting being allowed in [some] countries, the lion population has plummeted.”

    Further fueling this conflict between lions and humans is the loss of prey across the species’ range. African lions prey on large herbivores, a population that’s being hunted for an increasingly commercial bushmeat trade. The IUCN estimates these populations have declined by as much as 52 percent in East Africa and 85 percent in West Africa. With less food available in the wild, lions may be more likely to turn to hunting domesticated animals like livestock.

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  • Helping humans learn how to live with lions is key to ensuring their survival. Conservation organizations are working to change attitudes toward lions through compensation initiatives. Some of these models offer communities financial rewards when their local lion populations rise, while others pay farmers to replace their livestock that have been killed by lions.

    Other conservationists have focused on creating protected areas for lions. In Botswana’s Selinda area, only a single lioness and her cub lived there when filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, both National Geographic Explorers, turned the land into a protected reserve and photographic tourism camp. Now about a hundred lions roam the reserve.

    In Mozambique’s Zambezi Delta, where the effects of a protracted civil war caused lion numbers to plummet, the largest-ever lion translocation project brought in 24 lions from South Africa in 2018—they’re now settled in and starting to have cubs.

    WATCH: Lions 101

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    Home / Ask Gerry / How many species of lions are there?

    Bronwyn Paxton

    In: Ask Gerry / Blog / Travel Articles

    How many species of lions are there?

    There is actually only one species – the Panthera leo, however, there are several sub-species of lions which you may not know about. So when you head off on your African safari, read up about the various species and have a look at the photographs below to make sure you know which ones you will be seeing.

    lion species



  • 1 million divided by 1000
  • (Image)





    West African lion, or Senegal lion




    There are many game reserves across Africa to view lions but some of the most popular locations are on a Kruger Safari or on a Tanzania Safari.


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    The lion is at the top of the food chain. Its imposing size, strength and roar make it a difficullt opponent to overcome within the ecosystem. Despite this, however, there are still some lives in danger of extinction and/or that have died of entirely.

    Are you looking for a full list of types of lion? If so, you´ve come to the right place! Keep reading here at AnimalWised to discover how many types of lions are there, including lion characteristics and pictures.

    At present, there is one type of surviving lion (Panthera leo), from which 7 lion subspecies derive. Some lion species became extinct thousands of years ago, while others have disappeared as a result of humans. Additionally, it is important to know that all surviving lion species are in fact in danger of extinction.

    This number, however, corresponds to lions belonging to the cat family, but did you know that there are also types of sea lions? As for this marine animal, there are 7 genera of sea lions made up of several species.

    Now that you know how many types of lions there are in the world, keep reading to find out more about each.

    lion species

    Before we begin with this complete list of lion species and their characteristic, let´s take a look at the root. The panthera leo is the species from which all lion subspecies descend. The Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) only recognizes this species, and the Panthera leo persica and Panthera leo leo as the only subspecies. However, other taxonomic lists, such as ITIS, identify more varieties.

    Lions live in herds and inhabit the grasslands, savannas and jungles of Africa. These herds are generally composed of one or two males and several female lions. Lions live an average of 7 years and are considered “kings of the jungle” due to its unmatchable hunting capacity. Lions are carnivorous animals that feed on antelopes, zebras, etc., Female lions are responsible for hunting and keeping the herd well fed.

    Another of the most common lion characteristics are their marked sexual dimorphism. Males tend to be larger than females and have abundant manes, not present on females.

    The lion subspecies that currently exist and are recognized by the various official organizations include:

    For more, you may be interested in reading our article where we discuss cat hybrids.

    Keep reading to discover these types of lions characteristics.

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  • Among the types of lions and their characteristics we have the Kantaga lion, also referred to as the Southwest (Panthera leo bleyenberghi). This large lion subspecies is capable of reaching up to 280 kilograms in weight.

    As for its appearance, the Kantaga lion stands out for its characteristic sand colored thick and imposing mane. The outermost area of the mane can appear in a combination of light brown, coffee-colored.

    The Congo lion (Panthera leo azandica), also known as the central African lion, is a lion subspecies distributed along the plains of the African continent, especially in Uganda and the Republic of the Congo.

    The Congo lion is characterized by a measurement of between 2 meters and 50 centimeters and/or 2 meters 80 centimeters. In addition, this lion subspecies can weigh between 150 and 190 kilos. Male congo lions are recognizable by their dark characteristic mane, less leafy than other lion varieties. Its fur color can range between sand and dark brown.

    The Panthera leo krugeri, more commonly referred to as the Transvaal lion, is from South Africa. This African lion is a variety from the southern part of Africa, and is considered the sister lion to the Katanga lion. Male Transvaal lion species can reach up to 2 meters and 50 centimeters in length.

    Although they have the typical sand color in the fur, there are rare white lions from this variety. The white lion is a mutation of the krugeri, and the white fur appears as a result of a recessive gene. Despite their noticeable beauty, the white lion is vulnerable in the wild, especially because its light color is difficult to camouflage in the savanna.

    The Barbary lion (Panthera leo leo), is a subspecies that became extinct around 1942. There are, however, some specimens that can be found in zoos, such as those found in Rabat (Morocco). However, crossing with other lion subspecies complicates the task of raising pure Barbary lion individuals.

    According to records, this subspecies would be one of the largest, characterized by a large and lush mane. They live in both the Savannah and African jungles.

    Another of the types of lions that still exist is Panthera leo nubica, also recognized as the East African lion. Its body weight ranges between an average of the lion species, that is, between 150 and 200 kilos. The male of this subspecies has an abundant and darker mane than other lion subspecies.

    The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is native to India, although today it can be found in zoos and reserves in various parts of the world.

    This variety is smaller than other types of lions and has a lighter coat, with reddish mane in males. The Asiatic lion is currently among the types of lion in danger of extinction, mainly due to the reduction of their habitat, poaching and rivalry with inhabitants of their environment.

    Last on our list of types of lions is the West African lion, also known as the Panthera leo senegalensis or lion of West Africa. This lion subspecies lives in packs and measures about 3 meters, including its tail.

    This variety is in danger of extinction due to poaching and the city expansion, decreasing the amount of prey available.

    All types of lions are considered vulnerable in danger of extinction. Over the years, populations in the wild have declined and births in captivity are scarce.

    The most common threats to lions and lion subspecies include:

    Keep reading to discover our complete list of extinct and endangered lion species:

    Unfortunately, several species of lions have ceased to exist for various reasons, most due to human intervention. The types of extinct lion species include:

    Panthera leo melanochaitus, referred to more commonly as the Black lion or cape lion, is a subspecies that was declared extinct in 1860. Before disappearing completely, this lion species inhabited the southwest of South Africa. Little is known about this lion species expect that they weighed between 150 and 250 kilos and lived alone, contrary to common lion packs today.

    The males had a black mane, hence their name. The black lion disappeared from the African continent during English colonization, as a result of human attacks. Despite its extinction, lions in the Kalahari region are considered to have a genetic load from the black lion species.

    Panthera leo spelaea, also referred to as the Eurasian cave lion, was a species that was found in the Iberian Peninsula, England and Alaska. This lion subspecies inhabited the Earth during the Pleistocene, 2.60 million years ago. Evidence of its existence lies in cave paintings from 30,000 years ago and fossils.

    In general, its characteristics were similar to those of the current lion: between 2.5 and 3 meters long, and 200 kilos in weight.

    The primitive cave lion (Panthera leo fossilis) is another type of lion that became extinct during the Pleistocene. This lion species used to reach up to 2.50 meters long and lived in Europe. It is part of the oldest extinct feline fossils found in the world.

    Panthera leo atrox, also known as the American lion, was distributed throughout North America. Many believe this occured when it arrived through the Bering Strait before the continental drift occurred. Additionally, records imply that the American lion may have been the largest lion species in history, having measured almost 4 meters in length, at a weight of between 350 and 400 kilos.

    According to cave paintings found, this subspecies lacked a mane or was very scarce. It disappeared during the mass megafauna extinction, which occurred in the Quaternary.

    Additional varieties of extinct lions include:

    For more, we recommend reading our article of extinct species of cat.

    If you want to read similar articles to How Many Types of Lions Are There?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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    This powerful and majestic big cat has been officially classified as vulnerable.

    Affected by:
    Habitat loss and fragmentation
    , Illegal wildlife trade
    , Human wildlife conflict
    , Extractives

    Powerful and majestic, the king of the beasts has no natural predators. But unthinkably, African lion numbers have plummeted by over 40% in the last three generations, due to loss of living space and conflict with people.

    lion species

    Lions are the most sociable of all big cats. They live in groups called prides, which usually consist of related females and their cubs. Dominant males, with their flowing manes (a sign of virility), fight to maintain breeding rights.

    Three-quarters of African lion populations are in decline. With only around 20,000 in the wild, they’re now officially classified as ‘vulnerable’.

    “Seeing lions in the wild eluded me for a long time, but when I did eventually see them it was an incredible experience. On an early morning game drive in Ruaha National Park in Tanzania we discovered a lioness gently dozing on the banks of the river. We sat and watched – just us and her. Then, as the lioness’ tale gently swished, the unmistakable roar of another lion could be heard in the distance. Sadly the lion’s existence isn’t always this peaceful. People and lions trying to co-exist in habitats under mounting pressure are increasingly coming into conflict. With our partners, we’re working hard to solve these challenges and provide solutions that work for people and for one of Africa’s most iconic species.”

    African lions used to be spread across most of the continent, but now are only found in sub-Saharan Africa, with 80% in eastern or southern Africa. Three of the five largest populations are in Tanzania. Lions have disappeared from 12 sub-Saharan countries in recent decades.

    Lions are top predators in their environment, whether that’s grasslands, desert or open woodland. It means they play a crucial role in keeping a healthy balance of numbers among other animals, especially herbivores like zebra and wildebeest – which in turn influences the condition of grasslands and forests.

    By protecting a lion’s landscape, we’re helping the whole area to thrive, which doesn’t just benefit wildlife but the people who rely on local natural resources too.

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  • £25 could pay a Protection Unit ranger’s salary for 10 days, to help keep these magestic creatures safe.

    Adopt the Eneiskiria pride of lions and become a part of the solution to help protect lions in the Mara.

    African lions have been reduced to living on only 8% of the land they once occupied. It’s meant that some lion populations have become small and isolated affecting their ability to mix and breed, and their natural prey are being reduced.

    Lions living outside protected areas, or where there’s less of their natural prey around, sometimes prey on farm livestock. To protect their livelihoods, more and more local farmers are retaliating by killing lions.

    Lion bones have become increasingly in-demand in recent times, sometimes as a substitute for even-rarer tiger bones, especially as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine.

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    Nearly all wild lions live in Africa, below the Sahara Desert, but one small population exists around Gir Forest National Park in western India. 

    Lions in west and central Africa are more closely related to these Asiatic lions in India, than to those found in southern and east Africa.

    On average, males weigh 190kg (almost 30 stone) and females weigh 126kg (almost 20 stone). 

    They need this weight and power behind them to hunt large prey and defend their pride. 

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  • Young lions have rosettes and spots on their sandy coats, but these generally disappear as they mature. 

    Male lions grow impressive manes the older they get. These manes grow up to 16cm long and are a sign of dominance. The older they get, the darker their manes go.  

    As well as attracting females, their manes may also protect their neck and head from injuries during fights. 

    A pride of lions is usually made up of related females and their cubs, plus a male or small group of males who defend their pride. The lionesses rear their cubs together and cubs can suckle from any female with milk. 

    Lions are highly adaptable and can live in very dry areas like the Kalahari Desert. Here they get most of their water from their prey and will even drink from plants such as the Tsamma melon. 

    Lions can eat up to 40kg of meat in a single meal – around a quarter of their body weight. 

    Their tongues have sharp-pointed rasps, called papillae, which are used to scrape meat off the bones. 

    Lions do most of their hunting at night as their eyes have adapted to the dark and this gives them a huge advantage over their prey. 

    They hunt more during storms as the noise and wind make it harder for prey to see and hear them.  

    When hunting, lionesses have specific roles. Some play the role of ‘centre’ and others the role of ‘wing’ – the wings chase the prey towards the centres. 

    Lions are the only known cat species where individuals roar together – with even young cubs joining in with their mews. The calling sequence usually lasts about 40 seconds. 

    Prides often roar together to mark their territory – a roar can be heard from 5 miles away. 

    There are thought to be as few as 23,000 lions left in the wild. When you think there are around 415,000 wild African elephants, you realise lion numbers are incredibly low. 

    In fact, lions have disappeared from over 90% of their historical range.

    African lion numbers are thought to have declined by over 40% in the just three generations. 

    The main threats are retaliatory or preemptive killing to protect people and livestock, and decreasing natural prey and habitat (for example, due to expanding human settlements and therefore less available grazing). 

    When their natural prey is scarce, lions can cause grave losses to livestock, which can destroy the income of local people. 

    Climate change is another increasing threat – extreme weather may cause more droughts or delay the rains, affecting lions’ prey. 

    They’re also killed for the illegal wildlife trade. In recent years, the demand for lion bone as a substitute for tiger bone in traditional Asian medicine has risen. 



    We’re helping to establish and improve protected areas of habitat in east Africa, and work with communities to support the development of ‘conservancies’; community land that is unfenced and protected for wildlife, in return for income (for example, tourist lodges give communities money to be able to show tourists the amazing species that live on their land). 

    We support the Mara Predator Conservation Programme (MPCP) in Kenya, which monitors and protects lions and educates local people on lion conservation. This includes engaging with local communities such as anti-poisoning campaigns, providing better livestock enclosures, and taking school children on trips to see the wildlife they’re protecting. 

    With partners, we’re supporting the first ever national lion census in Kenya – using a survey technique developed by MPCP – to determine how many lions live here and how best to safeguard them. 

    But we couldn’t do this without your support.

    Sign up to be kept informed about our conservation work and how you can help such as fundraising, campaigning and events. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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