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Lion - Panthera leo
Topic Started: Feb 11 2012, 09:31 PM (18,975 Views)
Taipan
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Lion - Panthera leo

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Temporal range: Early Pleistocene to recent

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: Panthera leo

The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with an endangered remnant population in Gir Forest National Park in India, having disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru. The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of thirty to fifty percent over the past two decades in its African range. Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.

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Lions live for ten to fourteen years in the wild, while in captivity they can live longer than twenty years. In the wild, males seldom live longer than ten years, as injuries sustained from continual fighting with rival males greatly reduce their longevity. They typically inhabit savanna and grassland, although they may take to bush and forest. Lions are unusually social compared to other cats. A pride of lions consists of related females and offspring and a small number of adult males. Groups of female lions typically hunt together, preying mostly on large ungulates. Lions are apex and keystone predators, although they scavenge as opportunity allows. While lions do not typically hunt humans, some have been known to do so.

Highly distinctive, the male lion is easily recognised by its mane, and its face is one of the most widely recognised animal symbols in human culture. Depictions have existed from the Upper Paleolithic period, with carvings and paintings from the Lascaux and Chauvet Caves, through virtually all ancient and medieval cultures where they once occurred. It has been extensively depicted in sculptures, in 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 zoos the world over since the late eighteenth century. Zoos are cooperating worldwide in breeding programs for the endangered Asiatic subspecies.

Etymology
The lion's name, similar in many Romance languages, is derived from the Latin leo; and the Ancient Greek λέων (leon). The Hebrew word לָבִיא (lavi) may also be related. It was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus, who gave it the name Felis leo, in his eighteenth century work, Systema Naturae.

Taxonomy and evolution
The lion is a species of the genus Panthera and its closest relatives are the other species of this genus: the tiger, the jaguar, and the leopard. Panthera leo itself evolved in Africa between 1 million and 800,000 years ago, before spreading throughout the Holarctic region. It appeared in the fossil record in Europe for the first time 700,000 years ago with the subspecies Panthera leo fossilis at Isernia in Italy. From this lion derived the later cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea), which appeared about 300,000 years ago. Lions died out in northern Eurasia at the end of the last glaciation, about 10,000 years ago; this may have been secondary to the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna.

Subspecies
Traditionally, twelve recent subspecies of lion were recognised, distinguished by mane appearance, size, and distribution. Because these characteristics are very insignificant and show a high individual variability, most of these forms were probably not true subspecies, especially as they were often based upon zoo material of unknown origin that may have had "striking, but abnormal" morphological characteristics. Today only eight subspecies are usually accepted, although one of these, the Cape lion, formerly described as Panthera leo melanochaita, probably is invalid. Even the remaining seven subspecies might be too many. While the status of the Asiatic lion (P. l. persica) as a subspecies is generally accepted, the systematic relationships among African lions are still not completely resolved. Mitochondrial variation in living African lions seemed to be modest according to some younger studies and therefore all sub-Saharan lions sometimes have been considered a single subspecies. However, a recent study revealed, that lions from western and central Africa differ genetically from lions of southern or eastern Africa. According to this study, Western African lions are more closely related to Asian lions, than to South or East African lions. These findings might be explained by a late Pleistocene extinction event of lions in western and central Africa and a subsequent recolonisation of these parts from Asia. Previous studies, which were focusing mainly on lions from eastern and southern parts of Africa already showed that these can be possibly divided in two main clades: one to the west of the Great Rift Valley and the other to the east. Lions from Tsavo in Eastern Kenya are much closer genetically to lions in Transvaal (South Africa), than to those in the Aberdare Range in Western Kenya. Another study, revealed, that there are three major types of lions, one North African–Asian, one southern African and one middle African. Conversely, Per Christiansen found that using skull morphology allowed him to identify the subspecies krugeri, nubica, persica, and senegalensis, while there was overlap between bleyenberghi with senegalensis and krugeri. The Asiatic lion persica was the most distinctive, and the Cape lion had characteristics allying it more with persica than the other subsaharan lions. He had analysed 58 lion skulls in three European museums.
Recent

Eight recent (Holocene) subspecies are recognised today:

  • Asiatic Lion - Panthera leo persica, known as the Asiatic lion or South Asian, Persian, or Indian Lion, once was widespread from Turkey, across Southwest Asia, to Pakistan, India, and even to Bangladesh. However, large prides and daylight activity made them easier to poach than tigers or leopards; now around 300 exist in and near the Gir Forest of India. Genetic evidence suggests its ancestors split from the ancestors of subsaharan African lions between 74 and 203 thousand years ago.
  • Barbary Lion - Panthera leo leo, known as the Barbary lion, originally ranged from Morocco to Egypt. It is extinct in the wild due to excessive hunting, as the last wild Barbary lion was killed in Morocco in 1922. This was one of the largest of the lion subspecies, with reported lengths of 3–3.3 metres (10–10.8 ft) and weights of more than 200 kilograms (440 lb) for males. It appears to be more closely related to the Asiatic rather than subsaharan lions. There are a number of animals in captivity likely to be Barbary lions, particularly 90 animals descended from the Moroccan Royal collection at Rabat Zoo.
  • West African Lion - Panthera leo senegalensis, known as the West African Lion, is found in western Africa, from Senegal to the Central African Republic.
  • Northeast Congo Lion - Panthera leo azandica, known as the Northeast Congo Lion, is found in the northeastern parts of the Congo.
  • East African Lion -Panthera leo nubica, known as the East African, Massai Lion is found in east Africa, from Ethiopia and Kenya to Tanzania and Mozambique. A local population is known as Tsavo Lion.
  • Southwest African Lion - Panthera leo bleyenberghi, known as the Southwest African or Katanga Lion, is found in southwestern Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Katanga (Zaire), Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  • Southeast African Lion - Panthera leo krugeri, known as the Southeast African Lion or Transvaal Lion, is found in the Transvaal region of southeastern Africa, including Kruger National Park.
  • Cape Lion - Panthera leo melanochaita, known as the Cape lion, became extinct in the wild around 1860. Results of mitochondrial DNA research do not support the status as a distinct subspecies. It seems probable that the Cape lion was only the southernmost population of the extant P. l. krugeri.


Pleistocene

Several additional subspecies of lion existed in prehistoric times:

  • Panthera leo fossilis, known as the Early Middle Pleistocene European cave lion, flourished about 500,000 years ago; fossils have been recovered from Germany and Italy. It was larger than today's African lions, reaching the American cave lion in size.
  • European Cave Lion - Panthera leo spelaea, known as the European cave lion, Eurasian cave lion, or Upper Pleistocene European cave lion, occurred in Eurasia 300,000 to 10,000 years ago. This species is known from Paleolithic cave paintings (such as the one displayed to the right), ivory carvings, and clay busts, indicating it had protruding ears, tufted tails, perhaps faint tiger-like stripes, and that at least some males had a ruff or primitive mane around their necks.
  • American Lion - Panthera leo atrox, known as the American lion or American cave lion, was abundant in the Americas from Canada to Peru in the Pleistocene Epoch until about 10,000 years ago. This form is the sister clade of P. l. spelaea, and likely arose when an early P. l. spelaea population became isolated south of the North American continental ice sheet about 340 000 years ago. One of the largest purported lion subspecies to have existed, its body length is estimated to have been 1.6–2.5 m (5–8 ft).


Dubious

  • Panthera leo youngi or Panthera youngi, flourished 350,000 years ago. Its relationship to the extant lion subspecies is obscure, and it probably represents a distinct species.
  • Sri Lankan Lion - Panthera leo sinhaleyus, known as the Sri Lanka Lion, appears to have become extinct around 39,000 years ago. It is only known from two teeth found in deposits at Kuruwita. Based on these teeth, P. Deraniyagala erected this subspecies in 1939.
  • Beringian Cave Lion - Panthera leo vereshchagini, the Beringian cave lion of Yakutia (Russia), Alaska (USA), and the Yukon Territory (Canada), has been considered a subspecies separate from P. l. spelaea on morphological grounds. However, mitochondrial DNA sequences obtained from cave lion fossils from Europe and Alaska were indistinguishable.
  • European Lion - Panthera leo europaea, known as the European Lion, was probably identical with Panthera leo persica or Panthera leo spelea; its status as a subspecies is unconfirmed. It became extinct around 100 AD due to persecution and over-exploitation. It inhabited the Balkans, the Italian Peninsula, southern France, and the Iberian Peninsula. It was a very popular object of hunting among Romans and Greeks.
  • Marozi - Panthera leo maculatus, known as the marozi or spotted lion, sometimes is believed to be a distinct subspecies, but may be an adult lion that has retained its juvenile spotted pattern. If it was a subspecies in its own right, rather than a small number of aberrantly coloured individuals, it has been extinct since 1931. A less likely identity is a natural leopard-lion hybrid commonly known as a leopon.


Hybrids
Lions have been known to breed with tigers (most often the Siberian and Bengal subspecies) to create hybrids called ligers and tiglons. They also have been crossed with leopards to produce leopons, and jaguars to produce jaglions. The marozi is reputedly a spotted lion or a naturally occurring leopon, while the Congolese Spotted Lion is a complex lion-jaguar-leopard hybrid called a lijagulep. Such hybrids were once commonly bred in zoos, but this is now discouraged due to the emphasis on conserving species and subspecies. Hybrids are still bred in private menageries and in zoos in China.

The liger is a cross between a male lion and a tigress. Because the growth-inhibiting gene from the female tiger is absent, a growth-promoting gene is passed on by the male lion, the resulting ligers grow far larger than either parent. They share physical and behavioural qualities of both parent species (spots and stripes on a sandy background). Male ligers are sterile, but female ligers are often fertile. Males have about a 50 percent chance of having a mane, but if they grow one, their manes will be modest: around 50 percent of a pure lion mane. Ligers are typically between 3.0 and 3.7 m (10 to 12 feet) in length, and can be between 360 and 450 kg (800 to 1,000 pounds) or more. The less common tigon is a cross between the lioness and the male tiger.

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Characteristics
The lion is the tallest (at the shoulder) of all living cats, averaging about 14 cm (5.5 in) taller than the tiger. Behind only the tiger, the lion is the second largest living felid in length and weight. Its skull is very similar to that of the tiger, although the frontal region is usually more depressed and flattened, with a slightly shorter postorbital region. The lion's skull has broader nasal openings than the tiger. However, 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. Lion coloration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish, or dark ochraceous brown. The underparts are generally lighter and the tail tuft is black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes (spots) on their body, rather like those of a leopard. Although these fade as lions reach adulthood, faint spots often may still be seen on the legs and underparts, particularly on lionesses.

Lions are the only members of the cat family to display obvious sexual dimorphism—that is, males and females look distinctly different. They also have specialised roles that each gender plays in the pride. For instance, the lioness, the hunter, lacks the male's thick cumbersome mane. It seems to impede the male's ability to be camouflaged when stalking the prey and create overheating in chases. The colour of the male's mane varies from blond to black, generally becoming darker as the lion grows older.
During confrontations with others, the mane makes the lion look larger.

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Weights for adult lions range between 150–250 kg (330–550 lb) for males and 120–182 kg (264–400 lb) for females. Nowell and Jackson report average weights of 181 kg (400 lb) for males and 126 kg (280 lb) for females. Lions tend to vary in size depending on their environment and area, resulting in a wide spread in recorded weights. For instance, lions in southern Africa tend to be about 5 percent heavier than those in East Africa, in general.

Head and body length is 170–250 cm (5 ft 7 in – 8 ft 2 in) in males and 140–175 cm (4 ft 7 in – 5 ft 9 in) in females; shoulder height is up to 123 cm (4 ft) in males and as low as 91 cm (3 ft) in females. The tail length is 90–105 cm (2 ft 11 in - 3 ft 5 in) in males and 70–100 cm in females (2 ft 4 in – 3 ft 3 in).[4] The longest known lion, at nearly 3.6 m (12 ft) in total length, was a black-maned male shot near Mucsso, southern Angola in October 1973; the heaviest lion known in the wild was a man-eater shot in 1936 just outside Hectorspruit in eastern Transvaal, South Africa and weighed 313 kg (690 lb). Another notably outsized male lion, which was shot near Mount Kenya, weighed in at 272 kg (600 lb). Lions in captivity tend to be larger than lions in the wild—the heaviest lion on record is a male at Colchester Zoo in England named Simba in 1970, which weighed 375 kg (826 lb). However, the frequently cited maximum head and body length of 250 cm (8 ft 2 in) fits rather to extinct Pleistocene forms, like the American lion, with even large modern lions measuring several centimeters less in length.

The most distinctive characteristic shared by both females and males is that the tail ends in a hairy tuft. In some lions, the tuft conceals a hard "spine" or "spur", approximately 5 mm long, formed of the final sections of tail bone fused together. The lion is the only felid to have a tufted tail—the function of the tuft and spine are unknown. Absent at birth, the tuft develops around 5½ months of age and is readily identifiable at 7 months.

Mane
The mane of the adult male lion, unique among cats, is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the species. It makes the lion appear larger, providing an excellent intimidation display; this aids the lion during confrontations with other lions and with the species' chief competitor in Africa, the Spotted Hyena. The presence, absence, colour, and size of the mane is associated with genetic precondition, sexual maturity, climate, and testosterone production; the rule of thumb is the darker and fuller the mane, the healthier the lion. Sexual selection of mates by lionesses favors males with the densest, darkest mane.Research in Tanzania also suggests mane length 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. In prides including a coalition of two or three males, it is possible that lionesses solicit mating more actively with the males who are more heavily maned.

Scientists once believed that the distinct status of some subspecies could be justified by morphology, including the size of the mane. Morphology was used to identify subspecies such as the Barbary lion and Cape lion. Research has suggested, however, that environmental factors influence the colour and size of a lion's mane, such as the ambient temperature. The cooler ambient temperature in European and North American zoos, for example, may result in a heavier mane. Thus the mane is not an appropriate marker for identifying subspecies. The males of the Asiatic subspecies, however, are characterised by sparser manes than average African lions.

In the Pendjari National Park area almost all males are maneless or have very weak manes. Maneless male lions have also been reported from Senegal and from Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, and the original male white lion from Timbavati also was maneless. The testosterone hormone has been linked to mane growth, therefore castrated lions often have minimal to no mane, as the removal of the gonads inhibits testosterone production.

White lions
The white lion is not a distinct subspecies, but a special morph with a genetic condition, leucism, that causes paler colouration akin to that of the white tiger; the condition is similar to melanism, which causes black panthers. They are not albinos, having normal pigmentation in the eyes and skin. White Transvaal lion (Panthera leo krugeri) individuals occasionally have been encountered in and around Kruger National Park and the adjacent Timbavati Private Game Reserve in eastern South Africa, but are more commonly found in captivity, where breeders deliberately select them. The unusual cream colour of their coats is due to a recessive gene. Reportedly, they have been bred in camps in South Africa for use as trophies to be killed during canned hunts.

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Behaviour
Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming, and defecating. Intermittent bursts of activity follow through the night hours until dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating.

Group organization
Lions are the most socially inclined of all wild felids, most of which remain quite solitary in nature. The lion is a predatory carnivore who manifest two types of social organization. Some are residents, living in groups, called prides. The pride usually consists of five or six related females, their cubs of both sexes, and one or two males (known as a coalition if more than one) who mate with the adult females (although extremely large prides, consisting of up to 30 individuals, have been observed). The number of adult males in a coalition is usually two, but may increase to four and decrease again over time. Male cubs are excluded from their maternal pride when they reach maturity.
The second organizational behaviour is labeled nomads, who range widely and move about sporadically, either singularly or in pairs. Pairs are more frequent among related males who have been excluded from their birth pride. Note that a lion may switch lifestyles; nomads may become residents and vice versa. Males have to go through this lifestyle and some never are able to join another pride. A female who becomes a nomad has much greater difficulty joining a new pride, as the females in a pride are related, and they reject most attempts by an unrelated female to join their family group.

The area a pride occupies is called a pride area, whereas that by a nomad is a range. The males associated with a pride tend to stay on the fringes, patrolling their territory. Why sociality—the most pronounced in any cat species—has developed in lionesses is the subject of much debate. Increased hunting success appears an obvious reason, but this is less than sure upon examination: coordinated hunting does allow for more successful predation, but also ensures that non-hunting members reduce per capita caloric intake, however, some take a role raising cubs, who may be left alone for extended periods of time. Members of the pride regularly tend to play the same role in hunts. The health of the hunters is the primary need for the survival of the pride and they are the first to consume the prey at the site it is taken. Other benefits include possible kin selection (better to share food with a related lion than with a stranger), protection of the young, maintenance of territory, and individual insurance against injury and hunger.

Lionesses do the majority of the hunting for their pride, being smaller, swifter and more agile than the males, and unencumbered by the heavy and conspicuous mane, which causes overheating during exertion. They act as a co-ordinated group in order to stalk and bring down the prey successfully. However, if nearby the hunt, males have a tendency to dominate the kill once the lionesses have succeeded. They are more likely to share with the cubs than with the lionesses, but rarely share food they have killed by themselves. Smaller prey is eaten at the location of the hunt, thereby being shared among the hunters; when the kill is larger it often is dragged to the pride area. There is more sharing of larger kills, although pride members often behave aggressively toward each other as each tries to consume as much food as possible.

Both males and females defend the pride against intruders. Some individual lions consistently lead the defence against intruders, while others lag behind. Lions tend to assume specific roles in the pride. Those lagging behind may provide other valuable services to the group. An alternative hypothesis is that there is some reward associated with being a leader who fends off intruders and the rank of lionesses in the pride is reflected in these responses. The male or males associated with the pride must defend their relationship to the pride from outside males who attempt to take over their relationship with the pride. Females form the stable social unit in a pride and do not tolerate outside females; membership only changes with the births and deaths of lionesses, although some females do leave and become nomadic. Subadult males on the other hand, must leave the pride when they reach maturity at around 2–3 years of age.

Hunting and diet
Lions are powerful animals that usually hunt in coordinated groups and stalk their chosen prey. However, they are not particularly known for their stamina—for instance, a lioness' heart makes up only 0.57 percent of her body weight (a male's is about 0.45 percent of his body weight), whereas a hyena's heart is close to 1 percent of its body weight. Thus, they only run fast in short bursts, 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. They sneak up to the victim until they reach a distance of around 30 metres (98 ft) or less. The lioness is the one who does the hunting for the pride, since the lioness is more aggressive by nature. The male lion usually stays and watches its young while waiting for the lionesses to return from the hunt. Typically, several lionesses work together and encircle the herd from different points. Once they have closed with a herd, they usually target the closest prey. The attack is short and powerful; they attempt to catch the victim with a fast rush and final leap. The prey usually is killed by strangulation, which can cause cerebral ischemia or asphyxia (which results in hypoxemic, or "general", hypoxia). The prey also may be killed by the lion enclosing the animal's mouth and nostrils in its jaws (which would also result in asphyxia). Smaller prey, though, may simply be killed by a swipe of a lion's paw.

The prey consists mainly of large mammals, with a preference for wildebeest, impalas, zebras, buffalo, and warthogs in Africa and nilgai, wild boar, and several deer species in India. Many other species are hunted, based on availability. Mainly this will include ungulates weighing between 50 and 300 kg (110–660 lb) such as kudu, hartebeest, gemsbok, and eland. Occasionally, they take relatively small species such as Thomson's gazelle or springbok. Lions hunting in groups are capable of taking down most animals, even healthy adults, but in most parts of their range they rarely attack very large prey such as fully grown male giraffes due to the danger of injury.

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Extensive statistics collected over various studies show that lions normally feed on mammals in the range 190–550 kg (420–1210 lb). In Africa, wildebeest rank at the top of preferred prey (making nearly half of the lion prey in the Serengeti) followed by zebra. Most adult hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, elephants, and smaller gazelles, impala, and other agile antelopes are generally excluded. However giraffes and buffalos are often taken in certain regions. For instance, in Kruger National Park, giraffes are regularly hunted. In Manyara Park, Cape buffaloes constitute as much as 62% of the lion's diet, due to the high number density of buffaloes. Occasionally hippopotamus is also taken, but adult rhinoceroses are generally avoided. Even though smaller than 190 kg (420 lb), warthogs are often taken depending on availability. In some areas, lions specialise in hunting atypical prey species; this is the case at the Savuti river, where they prey on elephants. Park guides in the area reported that the lions, driven by extreme hunger, started taking down baby elephants, and then moved on to adolescents and, occasionally, fully grown adults during the night when elephants' vision is poor. Lions also attack domestic livestock; in India cattle contribute significantly to their diet. Lions are capable of killing other predators such as leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs, though (unlike most felids) they seldom devour the competitors after killing them. They also scavenge animals either dead from natural causes (disease) or killed by other predators, and keep a constant lookout for circling vultures, being keenly aware that they indicate an animal dead or in distress. A lion may gorge itself and eat up to 30 kg (66 lb) in one sitting; if it is unable to consume all the kill it will rest for a few hours before consuming more. On a hot day, the pride may retreat to shade leaving a male or two to stand guard. An adult lioness requires an average of about 5 kg (11 lb) of meat per day, a male about 7 kg (15.5 lb).

Because lionesses hunt in open spaces where they are easily seen by their prey, cooperative hunting increases the likelihood of a successful hunt; this is especially true with larger species. Teamwork also enables them to defend their kills more easily against other large predators such as hyenas, which may be attracted by vultures from kilometres away in open savannas. Lionesses do most of the hunting; males attached to prides do not usually participate in hunting, except in the case of larger quarry such as giraffe and buffalo. In typical hunts, each lioness has a favored 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 in flight from other lionesses. Young lions first display stalking behaviour around three months of age, although they do not participate in hunting until they are almost a year old. They begin to hunt effectively when nearing the age of two.

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Predator competition
Lions and spotted hyenas occupy the same ecological niche (and hence compete) where they coexist. A review of data across several studies indicates a dietary overlap of 58.6%. Lions typically ignore spotted hyenas, unless they are on a kill or are being harassed by them, while the latter tend to visibly react to the presence of lions, whether there is food or not. 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. Lions are quick to follow the calls of hyenas feeding, a fact which was proven by Dr. Hans Kruuk, who found that lions repeatedly approached him whenever he played the tape-recorded calls of hyenas feeding. When confronted on a kill by lions, spotted hyenas will either leave or wait patiently at a distance of 30–100 m (100–350 ft) until the lions have finished. In some cases, spotted hyenas are bold enough to feed alongside lions, and may occasionally force the lions off a kill. The two species may act aggressively toward one another even when there is no food involved. Lions may charge at hyenas and maul them for no apparent reason: one male lion was filmed killing two matriarch hyenas on separate occasions without eating them, and lion predation can account for up to 71% of hyena deaths in Etosha. Spotted hyenas have adapted by frequently mobbing lions which enter their territories. Experiments on captive spotted hyenas revealed that specimens with no prior experience with lions act indifferently to the sight of them, but will react fearfully to the scent.

Lions tend to dominate smaller felines such as cheetahs and leopards where they co-occur, stealing their kills and killing their cubs and even adults when given the chance. The cheetah has a 50% chance of losing its kill to lions or other predators. Lions are major killers of cheetah cubs, up to 90% of which are lost in their first weeks of life due to attacks by other predators. Cheetahs avoid competition by hunting at different times of the day and hide their cubs in thick brush. Leopards also use such tactics, but have the advantage of being able to subsist much better on small prey than either lions or cheetahs. Also, unlike cheetahs, leopards can climb trees and use them to keep their cubs and kills away from lions. However, lionesses will occasionally be successful in climbing to retrieve leopard kills. Similarly, lions dominate African Wild Dogs, not only taking their kills but also preying on young and (rarely) adult dogs. Population densities of wild dogs are low in areas where lions are more abundant. However, in Kruger National Park, there have been records of wild dogs killing lions and there is one report of eight dogs killing and eating an adult male.

The Nile Crocodile is the only sympatric predator (besides humans) that can singly threaten the lion. Depending on the size of the crocodile and the lion, either can lose kills or carrion to the other. Lions have been known to kill crocodiles venturing onto land, while the reverse is true for lions entering waterways, as evidenced by the occasional lion claws found in crocodile stomachs.

Reproduction and life cycle
Most lionesses will have reproduced by the time they are four years of age. Lions do not mate at any specific time of year, and the females are polyestrous. As with other cats, the male lion's penis has spines which point backwards. Upon withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake the walls of the female's vagina, which may cause ovulation. A lioness may mate with more than one male when she is in heat; during a mating bout, which could last several days, the couple copulates twenty to forty times a day and are likely to forgo eating. Lions reproduce very well in captivity.

The average gestation period is around 110 days, the female giving birth to a litter of one to 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 rest of the pride. She will often hunt by herself while the cubs are still helpless, staying relatively close to the thicket or den where the cubs are kept. The cubs themselves are born blind—their eyes do not open until roughly a week 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. 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, to prevent scent from building up at a single den site and thus avoiding the attention of predators that may harm the cubs.

Usually, the mother does not integrate herself and her cubs back into the pride until the cubs are six to eight weeks old. However, sometimes this introduction to pride life occurs earlier, particularly if other lionesses have given birth at about the same time. For instance, lionesses in a pride often synchronise their reproductive cycles so that they cooperate in the raising and suckling of the young (once the cubs are past the initial stage of isolation with their mother), who suckle indiscriminately from any or all of the nursing females in the pride. In addition to greater protection, the synchronization of births also has an advantage in that the cubs end up being roughly the same size, and thus have an equal chance of survival. If one lioness gives birth to a litter of cubs a couple of months after another lioness, for instance, then the younger cubs, being much smaller than their older brethren, are usually dominated by larger cubs at mealtimes—consequently, death by starvation is more common amongst the younger cubs.

In addition to starvation, cubs also face many other dangers, such as predation by jackals, hyenas, leopards, Martial Eagles and snakes. Even buffaloes, should they catch the scent of lion cubs, often stampede towards the thicket or den where they are being kept, doing their best to trample the cubs to death while warding off the lioness. Furthermore, when one or more new males oust the previous male(s) associated with a pride, the conqueror(s) often kill any existing young cubs, perhaps because females do not become fertile and receptive until their cubs mature or die. All in all, as many as 80 percent of the cubs will die before the age of two.

When first introduced to the rest of the pride, the cubs initially lack confidence when confronted with adult lions other than their mother. However, they soon begin to immerse themselves in the pride life, playing amongst themselves or attempting to initiate play with the adults. Lionesses with cubs of their own are more likely to be tolerant of another lioness's cubs than lionesses without cubs. The tolerance of the male lions towards the cubs varies—sometimes, a male will patiently let the cubs play with his tail or his mane, whereas another may snarl and bat the cubs away.
The tolerance of male lions towards the cubs varies. They are, however, generally more likely to share food with the cubs than with the lionesses.

Weaning occurs after six to seven months. Male lions reach maturity at about 3 years of age and, at 4–5 years of age, are capable of challenging and displacing the adult male(s) associated with another pride. They begin to age and weaken between 10 and 15 years of age at the latest, if they have not already been critically injured while defending the pride (once ousted from a pride by rival males, male lions rarely manage a second take-over). This leaves a short window for their own offspring to be born and mature. If they are able to procreate as soon as they take over a pride, potentially, they may have more offspring reaching maturity before they also are displaced. A lioness often will attempt to defend her cubs fiercely from a usurping male, but such actions are rarely successful. He usually kills all of the existing cubs who are less than two years old. A lioness is weaker and much lighter than a male; success is more likely when a group of three or four mothers within a pride join forces against one male.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not only males that are ousted from their pride to become nomads, although most females certainly do remain with their birth pride. However, when the pride becomes too large, the next generation of female cubs may be forced to leave to eke out their own territory. Furthermore, when a new male lion takes over the pride, subadult lions, both male and female, may be evicted. Life is harsh for a female nomad. Nomadic lionesses rarely manage to raise their cubs to maturity, without the protection of other pride members. One scientific study reports that both males and females may interact homosexually.

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Health
Although adult lions have no natural predators, evidence suggests that the majority die violently from humans or other lions. Lions often inflict serious injuries on each other, either members of different prides encountering each other in territorial disputes, or members of the same pride fighting at a kill. Crippled lions and lion cubs may fall victim to hyenas, leopards, or be trampled by buffalo or elephants, and careless lions may be maimed when hunting prey.

Various species of tick commonly infest the ears, neck and groin regions of most lions. Adult forms of several species of the tapeworm genus Taenia have been isolated from intestines, the lions having ingested larval forms from antelope meat. Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater were afflicted by an outbreak of stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans) in 1962; this resulted in lions becoming covered in bloody bare patches and emaciated. Lions sought unsuccessfully to evade the biting flies by climbing trees or crawling into hyena burrows; many perished or emigrated as the population dropped from 70 to 15 individuals. A more recent outbreak in 2001 killed six lions. Lions, especially in captivity, are vulnerable to the canine distemper virus (CDV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). CDV is spread through 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. FIV, which is similar to HIV while not known to adversely affect lions, is worrisome enough in its effect in domestic cats that the Species Survival Plan recommends systematic testing in captive lions. It occurs with high to endemic frequency in several wild lion populations, but is mostly absent from Asiatic and Namibian lions.

Communication
When resting, lion socialization occurs through a number of behaviours, and the animal's expressive movements are highly developed. The most common peaceful tactile gestures are head rubbing and social licking, which have been compared with grooming in primates. Head rubbing—nuzzling one's forehead, face and neck against another lion—appears to be a form of greeting, as it 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. 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, which may have arisen out of utility, as a lion cannot lick these areas individually.

Lions have an array of facial expressions and body postures that serve as visual gestures. Their repertoire of vocalizations is also large; variations in intensity and pitch, rather than discrete signals, appear central to communication. Lion sounds include snarling, purring, hissing, coughing, miaowing, woofing and roaring. Lions tend to roar in a very characteristic manner, starting with a few deep, long roars that trail off into a series of shorter ones. They most often roar at night; the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometres (5.0 mi), is used to advertise the animal's presence. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat.

Distribution and habitat
In Africa, lions can be found in savanna grasslands with scattered Acacia trees which serve as shade; their habitat in India is a mixture of dry savanna forest and very dry deciduous scrub forest. The habitat of lions originally spanned the southern parts of Eurasia, ranging from Greece to India, and most of Africa except the central rainforest-zone and the Sahara desert. Herodotus reported that lions had been common in Greece around 480 BC; they attacked the baggage camels of the Persian king Xerxes on his march through the country. Aristotle considered them rare by 300 BC. By 100 AD they were extirpated. A population of Asiatic lions survived until the tenth century in the Caucasus, their last European outpost.

The species was eradicated from Palestine by the Middle Ages and from most of the rest of Asia after the arrival of readily available firearms in the eighteenth century. Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century they became extinct in North Africa and Southwest Asia. By the late nineteenth century the lion had disappeared from Turkey and most of northern India, while the last sighting of a live Asiatic lion in Iran was in 1941 (between Shiraz and Jahrom, Fars Province), although the corpse of a lioness was found on the banks of the Karun river, Khūzestān Province in 1944. There are no subsequent reliable reports from Iran.[80] The subspecies now survives only in and around the Gir Forest of northwestern India. About 300 lions live in a 1,412 km2 (545 sq mi) sanctuary in the state of Gujarat, which covers most of the forest. Their numbers are slowly increasing.

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Population and conservation status
Most lions now live in eastern and southern Africa, and their numbers there are rapidly decreasing, with an estimated 30–50% decline over the last two decades. Estimates of the African lion population range between 16,500 and 47,000 living in the wild in 2002–2004, down from early 1990s estimates that ranged as high as 100,000 and perhaps 400,000 in 1950. Primary causes of the decline include disease and human interference. Habitat loss and conflicts with humans are considered the most significant threats to the species. The remaining populations are often geographically isolated from one another, which can lead to inbreeding, and consequently, reduced genetic diversity. Therefore the lion is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, while the Asiatic subspecies is endangered. The lion population in the region of West Africa is isolated from lion populations of Central Africa, with little or no exchange of breeding individuals. The number of mature individuals in West Africa is estimated by two separate recent surveys at 850–1,160 (2002/2004). There is disagreement over the size of the largest individual population in West Africa: the estimates range from 100 to 400 lions in Burkina Faso's Arly-Singou ecosystem. Another population in northwestern Africa is found in Waza National Park, where only about 14-21 animals persist.

Conservation of both African and Asian lions has required the setup and maintenance of national parks and game reserves; among the best known are Etosha National Park in Namibia, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and Kruger National Park in eastern South Africa. Outside these areas, the issues arising from lions' interaction with livestock and people usually results in the elimination of the former. In India, the last refuge of the Asiatic lion is the 1,412 km2 (545 sq mi) Gir Forest National Park in western India which had about 359 lions (as of April 2006). As in Africa, numerous human habitations are close by with the resultant problems between lions, livestock, locals and wildlife officials. The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project plans to establish a second independent population of Asiatic lions at the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It is important to start a second population to serve as a gene pool for the last surviving Asiatic lions and to help develop and maintain genetic diversity enabling the species to survive.

The former popularity of the Barbary lion as a zoo animal has meant that scattered lions in captivity are likely to be descended from Barbary lion stock. This includes twelve lions at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, England that are descended from animals owned by the King of Morocco. Another eleven animals believed to be Barbary lions were found in Addis Ababa zoo, descendants of animals owned by Emperor Haile Selassie. WildLink International, in collaboration with Oxford University, launched their 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.

Following the discovery of the decline of lion population in Africa, several coordinated efforts involving lion conservation have been organised in an attempt to stem this decline. Lions are one species included in the Species Survival Plan, a coordinated attempt by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to increase its chances of survival. The plan was originally started in 1982 for the Asiatic lion, but was suspended when it was found that most Asiatic lions in North American zoos were not genetically pure, having been hybridised with African lions. The African lion plan started in 1993, focusing especially on the South African subspecies, although there are difficulties in assessing the genetic diversity of captive lions, since most individuals are of unknown origin, making maintenance of genetic diversity a problem.
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Lion Predation on Black Rhinoceros

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Source : http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/117/1175858056.pdf
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Male Coalitions


The brother/pride-mate male coalitions form very quickly after leaving their pride. The coalition is nomadic until they find a pride they can overtake. Overtaking a pride is not an easy task, and the resident males will fight significantly to try to avoid being kicked out of their pride. These overthrows result in many injured and/or dead lions. Regardless of whether the resident males die in fighting the incoming males or not, they will die of starvation shortly after losing their pride. Male coalitions that are evicted rarely ever establish residence within a pride again, and if they don’t have a pride then they can’t reproduce nor gain access to food as easily and consequently die due to starvation. The typical residence for a coalition is only 2-3 years. Therefore, the life expectancy of a male lion is very short (Grinnell 1995).



The larger the coalition, the easier it is to take over a pride and the longer they will retain their residence. Large coalitions are also capable of holding onto two smaller prides as well. However, there is a certain degree of difficulty in having such a large coalition of males. Male lions only form coalitions with their brothers and their pridemates; therefore, their native pride must have been very large with multiple females in synchronous birth and lacking in predation or infanticidal males to produce this large of a coalition. Unfortunately, not that many male cubs actually make it to form such a large coalition. Therefore, the average size of a male coalition is around 1-4 males (Bygott 1979).

http://www.bio.davidson.edu/people/vecase/Behavior/Spring2004/shelburne/organization.html

This photo has 1 large coalition of males!

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Any guesses how many!




Lion mortality

Rates and causes of mortality among lions in three study prides have shown that mortality is highest among adult males (7 currently alive of 21 known males in the study area, mortality rate = 67%, annual mortality = 13%), followed by cubs (38 reached 2 yrs old, 8 cubs currently < 6mo of 114 cubs emerging from dens, mortality rate = 60%), followed by adult females (14 currently alive of 27 total = 48%, annual mortality = 10%). Causes of mortality among adult males and females also differ; fights with other males are the most important contributory factor to known mortality of males, and problem animal control and disease contributing most significantly to mortality among females. Most cubs died of unknown causes, although the greatest known contributing factor to cub mortality (38%) is associated with attempted or actual pride takeovers by incoming males. As a general observation, primiparous mothers have very low rates of cub survival especially if these cubs are born out of synchrony with other cubs. Cub mortality rates differed among the study prides: while the Santawani pride had more cubs emerge from dens than other prides, a greater percentage of these cubs subsequently died, and the pride had the lowest cub survival rate of the three prides compared . As discussed, such mortality was directly attributable to high rates of male coalition turnover in the Santawani pride."

http://www.lionaid.org/science/male_move.htm




Solo v Cooperative

Traditionally, female lions were thought to live in groups because they benefited from cooperative hunting. (The females hunt more often than the resident males.) But on closer examination, we have found that groups of hunting lions do not feed any better than solitary females. In fact, large groups end up at a disadvantage because the companions often refuse to cooperate in capturing prey.

Once one female has started to hunt, her companions may or may not join her. If the prey is large enough to feed the entire pride, as is the usual case, the companions face a dilemma: although a joint hunt may be more likely to succeed, the additional hunters must exert themselves and risk injury. But if a lone hunter can succeed on her own, her pridemates might gain a free meal. Thus, the advantages of cooperative hunting depend on the extent to which a second hunter can improve her companion's chances for success, and this in turn depends on the companion's hunting ability. If a lone animal is certain to succeed, the benefits of helping could never exceed the costs. But if she is incompetent, the advantages of a latecomer's assistance may well exceed the costs.

Evidence from a wide variety of bird, insect and mammalian species suggests that, as expected, cooperation is most wholehearted when lone hunters do need help. The flip side of this trend is that species are least cooperative when hunters can most easily succeed on their own. Consistent with this observation, our graduate student David Scheel found that the Serengeti lions most often work together when tackling such difficult prey as buffalo or zebra. But in taking down easy prey--say, a wildebeest or warthog--a lioness often hunts alone; her companions watch from the sidelines.

Conditions are not the same throughout the world. In the Etosha Pan of Namibia, lions specialize in catching one of the fastest of all antelopes, the springbok, in flat, open terrain. A single lion could never capture a springbok, and so the Etosha lions are persistently cooperative. Philip Stander of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia has drawn an analogy between their hunting tactics and a rugby team's strategy, in which wings and centers move in at once to circle the ball, or prey. This highly developed teamwork stands in sharp contrast to the disorganized hunting style of the Serengeti lions."

http://www.lionresearch.org/current/cooperation.html

So it seems it depends on conditions & prey as to whether a lioness hunts solo or in a group.

This graph also illustrates that too -
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Male Lion with Giraffe

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That pic is from a new video I have - Renegade Lions

This male was guarding a Giraffe that he had killed earlier. Lions are notorious for chasing their prey towards roads, if there is any in the area, where the animal might slip and fall and break something. Thats what this one lone young lion had done and was very content to have his meal in the middle of the road blocking traffic. The rangers moved the dead giraffe off the road where the lion continued his meal. After his meal he tried to take a nap but was forced to defend his kill from vultures and a persistantJackael. Later that night the lion lost his kill to numerous Hyena that came.
Photo taken near Balule Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa

http://wwwp.exis.net/~spook/lion.html

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"Lion male checks for hyena and other scavengers while feeding on giraffe, Kruger National Park, South Africa. "




Lioness chasing Giraffe

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Lions v Lioness

An hour after the last skirmish the older female lion slowly crept up to the carcass, careful not to disturb the Mohawk male resting beside it. The larger male was sleeping under a tree 50 yards away.

She eased up to the carcass on her belly the final few feet, then began to eat cautiously, with the male on the other side of the buffalo. The male jumped up and literally 'got into her face', but this time she had waited long enough and wasn't going to back down.

She swatted at the male with a right hook, then a left hook and the satiated male backed up a step, seemingly caught off-guard by her aggressiveness and looking a bit intimidated.
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It looks like this courageous (or insanely hungry) female has earned a place at the buffet but suddenly the second male roars in and attacks her, smacking her in the face with a left hook.
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Incredibly she fights back, with a quick right jab and then a blow to the nose. This was a bad career move!
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In this next sequence the enraged male shows how a lion attacks, with a roundhouse right to the head that knocks her down, then both males attack her. All this occurred in about 2 seconds as we were shooting as fast as possible.
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In a close-up of this frame you can see the claws are extended and the female's head is twisted to the side as the blow knocks her off balance and on her back.
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Now both males attack, one grappling with her head as the other bites her stomach. She twists away in pain from the stomach bite. Note the protection offered by the mane on the lion on the left as the female's claws and blows are cushioned by the thick matted fur.
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By now the lioness is no longer fighting for a bite to eat, she is fighting for her life. The male on the right is moving in to grab her by the nape and if his canines penetrated her spine she could be crippled.
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Here you can see the second male biting her in the back as she twists away. They took her down again, then she twisted away one final time and escaped. All this took place in about four seconds, according to the date-stamp on the digital files.

Schaller describes several lion fights he and associates witnessed while doing field research nearby that did not turn out so well for the losers. To quote extensively from "The Serengeti Lion" (a National Book Award Winner when first published in 1972 and still a fine read) ... "Lions showed little restraint when biting each other and some wounds caused rapid death. Several cubs were bitten to death. One of the Seronera males died after a fight. One nomadic male was killed presumably by another male in a brief but violent battle: the nomad had been bitten thrrough the nape, breaking his neck ... On March 16 ... G. Dove watched a lioness walk, then crawl toward a male on a kill near Lake Lagaja. Suddenly he attacked her, and, after a brief flurry, she collapsed, quivered, and lay still. She had been bitten through the back of the neck ... Schenkel watched a male pursue a lioness, bite her in the lower back and shake her, thereby breaking her vertebral column in two places. The lioness was paralzyed in her hind quarters and died about 20 minutes later."

These last two instances, where males bit females on the back or in the neck and killed them, were on my mind as I watched these two males attack the female. I think she was lucky to escape with a few scars.
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After winning the battle the Mohawk lion returned to the carcass and fed while the other one walked up to our vehicle and lay down in the shade. Note the flies covering this lion's back and face (below).

The Mohawk male had blood on his muzzle from where the female bit him. The lioness walked away with as much dignity as she could muster, no slinking or running, just a purposeful stride as if she suddenly remembered she had an important appointment and couldn't be bothered to hang around with these losers any longer. You could see teeth imprints on her back but no blood and she wasn't limping, which was a good sign. She didn't look back and the other female and younger injured male followed her, giving up the carcass for good.

*The comments are by the photographer.





Infanticide

Infanticide is a common practice in most mammals. Male lions use infanticide to get rid of offspring in a newly acquired pride that are not genetically related to the male coalition. Solitary males are also capable of killing the offspring of an encountered pride (Packer 1983). Female lions have also been observed to kill cubs from a rival pride, but they would never kill cubs from their own pride. The dead offspring are sometimes consumed as an energy source and other times they are simply just eradicated for the sake of it. Older cubs and sub-adults have a better chance of being able to escape incoming infanticidal males than younger cubs (Urban 2002).

Infanticide is very advantageous to incoming males in that they are getting rid of offspring that do not carry their genes (Packer 1983). The other advantage of killing the offspring of the former owners of the pride is that a female will quickly enter estrous following the infanticidal event. As a result, the incoming males are then capable of copulating very soon after overtaking the pride (Viljoen 2003). However, following the takeover it usually takes a lioness 6-9 estrous cycles in order to become impregnated again. Packer hypothesizes that this duration of time is caused by the female adapting to the new male’s sperm rather than the female being infertile (Packer 1983).

Infanticide & Female Response



Male Lion killing Cub
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Edited by Taipan, Jun 3 2012, 05:44 PM.
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Came across this interesting article written by an Anthropologist at the University of Winsconsin.-

"Lion predation on elephants
home :: reviews :: life_history :: risk :: lion_elephant_predation_2006.w

I'm reading a bit about risk in large animal hunting, and I ran across an article by Dereck Joubert on elephant hunting by lions in Botswana.

Over the 4 years, we observed a total of 74 elephants killed by lions, including eleven elephants in 1993, seventeen in 1994, nineteen in 1995, and 27 in 1996, suggesting an increasing hunting success rate. All the elephants killed, with one exception, were from breeding herds (females and young). The exception was an adult bull, previously wounded by another bull, who remained alive for several days before eventually being killed by the lions. The great majority of the young elephants killed were males, and two-thirds of the kills were of elephants in the age range 4-15 years, with highest hunting success achieved for elephants aged 4-9 years (Table 1). The animals killed were commonly on the periphery of, or straggling behind, the breeding herds, with nearly half killed more than 50 m away from the main herd. Hunts were less commonly attempted on calves which were under the age of 4 years, which remained more closely associated with their mothers. Hunting success for elephants older than 4 years apparently doubled from 33% (n = 9) in 1993 to 62% (n = 61) in 1996. Many attempts to kill adults bulls were made in 1996, when we saw lions attacking elephant bulls almost nightly although only one hunt was successful. All except one of the kills were made at night, and hunts occurred more commonly on dark moon nights than when the moon was bright.

Well, hunting elephants ought to be pretty risky (otherwise, lions would do it all the time, right?). So how many lions got hurt during all these hunts?

There was a close resemblance between the methods that the lions used to hunt elephants and the technique commonly used to hunt buffalo. This tactic included first opportunistically detecting a straggler, or targeting a vulnerable member of the herd, then circling behind the selected prey. The lions then attacked by running in as a group. One or more lions leapt up onto the back or lower flanks and orientated along the spine of the prey. They then bit down on the backbone. The lion positioned highest up the spine would still be behind the ears of the elephant and just far enough back to be out of reach of the extended trunk. The elephant was then pulled down to its knees, not collapsed because of any fatal bite to the spine. Another approach involved a running hunt causing confusion and bunching of the elephant herds. This often resulted in one elephant falling or getting separated. In all cases a rear attack was employed, never a frontal attack. In one notable case, a single male lion ran at nearly full speed into the side of a 6-year-old male calf with sufficient force to collapse the elephant on its side. On only one occasion was a lion injured by an elephant in these hunts. In that case, the elephant collapsed on top of the lion. The resulting injury to the head was therefore recorded as accidental rather than as a result of a counterattack by the elephant.

OK, so the lions mostly limited their hunts to a class of most vulnerable elephants (subadults old enough to be isolated from their mothers, and inattentive to predators -- males amounted to 236 confirmed attempts versus 38 for females!). They adopted a special hunting style that they use for other dangerous large prey animals, attacking from the back by ambush. And during all these hunts (which totaled 74 kills out of 323 attempts) only one lion was confirmed injured. The paper doesn't say how serious the injury was, or if itwas eventually fatal, but elephant-falling-on-lion can't be a good situation.

Now, the relevant measure of risk in this instance is the injury rate (or even better, death rate) per successful kill. Unsuccessful attempts might fail for many reasons, including injury, but none of these unsuccessful attempts satisfy anybody's energetic requirements. So we have one serious injury per 74 kills. There may have been other injuries that weren't major enough to be observed or counted. Limiting to the one that was counted, we have a rate of serious injury of around 1.33 percent per kill; divided among the average number of lions that participated, which isn't specified.

From the elephant perspective, there appears to be a case for strategic indifference of adult males to predation on the younger males:


When these young elephants finished and called out to their families, the lions attacked. There was surprisingly little response from other nearby elephants. Older calves were attacked and killed within 50 m of the drinking bulls. The distress calls of the young elephant and lion growls seldom distracted them from drinking.

Tough to be a young male elephant.
References:
Joubert D. 2006. Hunting behaviour of lions (Panthera leo) on elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Chobe National Park, Botswana. Afr J Ecol 44:279-281. DOI

http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/life_history/risk/lion_elephant_predation_2006.w

Elephant bluffing lions

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Taipan
 
That pic is from a new video I have - Renegade Lions

This male was guarding a Giraffe that he had killed earlier. Lions are notorious for chasing their prey towards roads, if there is any in the area, where the animal might slip and fall and break something. Thats what this one lone young lion had done and was very content to have his meal in the middle of the road blocking traffic. The rangers moved the dead giraffe off the road where the lion continued his meal. After his meal he tried to take a nap but was forced to defend his kill from vultures and a persistantJackael. Later that night the lion lost his kill to numerous Hyena that came.
Photo taken near Balule Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa

http://wwwp.exis.net/~spook/lion.html

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"Lion male checks for hyena and other scavengers while feeding on giraffe, Kruger National Park, South Africa. "


Another Kill
The coalition of six male lions has struck fear into the big grazers at Exeter over the past few days. As if the four lions killing a Rhino were not enough, a single male (from the coalition) has just killed an adult female Giraffe. Not only is it impressive because a lone lion killed an adult Giraffe, but the kill comes within a day of the other four males making their Rhino Kill. Guests are being treated to two amazingly unique kills within 5 kilometers of each other. The interaction at both of these kills has been spectacular, whether it is Vultures, Hyena or Jackal trying their luck to get an easy meal.

http://www.wildwatch.com/sightings/another-kill




Major Lion Die-Offs Linked to Climate Change

John Roach
for National Geographic News
June 25, 2008

Droughts and downpours exacerbated by climate change allowed two diseases to converge and wipe out large numbers of African lions in 1994 and 2001, according to a new study.

Lions regularly survive outbreaks of canine distemper virus (CDV) and infestations by a tick-borne blood parasite called Babesia. But both normally occur in isolation.

In 1994 and 2001, however, a "perfect storm" of extreme drought followed by heavy seasonal rains set up the conditions for the two diseases to converge, the study said.

The effect was lethal: The synchronized infections wiped out about a third of the Serengeti lion population in 1994. The nearby Ngorongoro Crater lion population experienced similar losses in 2001.

"It was already well known that die offs can be triggered by droughts and floods," Craig Packer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, explained in an email from his research site in Tanzania.

"We were able to identify the interacting components of a lethal co-infection that had not previously been considered," he said.

The research is published in today's issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

"Lethal One-Two Punch"

Packer and his colleagues combed through more than 30 years of data on the lion populations to determine the complex combination of factors that caused the mass die offs.

They found that at least five CDV outbreaks swept through the lion populations with no ill effect. The two die offs, which are also tied to CDV outbreaks, were preceded by extreme droughts.

Probing further, the researchers discovered the droughts weakened lion prey, including the Cape buffalo.

When the rains resumed, Babesia-carrying ticks emerged en masse and proliferated in their buffalo hosts. Many of the buffalo died.

The lions feasted on the weakened, parasite-infested buffalo, but the feast left the hunters with unusually high concentrations of Babesia. The subsequent CDV outbreak proved lethal, according to the study.

"CDV is immunosuppressive—like a short, sharp bout of AIDS—thus greatly intensifying the effects of the Babesia," Packer said.

This co-infection, or synchronization of the diseases, caused the mass die offs, Packer and his colleagues concluded.

Sonia Altizer is an ecologist who studies wildlife diseases at the University of Georgia in Athens. She was not involved with this study, which she said is "at the leading edge" of the field.

"[It] lays out mechanistically how a climate anomaly could allow a combination of pathogens to have a lethal one-two punch," she said.

Conservation Implications

Study author Packer and his colleagues warn that as global climate change continues to produce more extreme weather anomalies, potentially fatal synchronized infections are likely to become more common.

"Many mysterious maladies [such as] colony collapse disorder in honeybees are likely to result from co-infections," Packer noted.

Altizer said the research adds to a growing body of evidence showing how extreme climate events can have major impacts on the spread of infectious diseases.

Since more deadly co-infections are likely to arise, she said researchers need to reconsider how they treat wildlife and humans.

"Understanding the mechanism by which the animals are actually dying or succumbing to disease then changes how you should go about preventing that," she explained.

In the case of the lions, Packer noted, wildlife managers may be able to better protect populations by reducing their tick loads immediately following a drought rather than controlling for CDV.

Posted Image
A female African lion takes a bite out of a Cape buffalo at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.

Research that links recent lion die offs to climate change has found that unusual droughts weaken lion prey, such as the Cape buffalo. When rains resume, disease-carrying ticks overwhelm the buffalo, which then pass the disease to the lions.

Weakened by the tick-borne disease, the lions more easily succumb to other diseases, such as canine distemper virus (CDV), for example, in 1994 and 2001.


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/06/080625-warming-lions.html


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'Supersize' lions roamed Britain

By Natalie Hancock
BBC News, Oxford

Giant lions were roaming around Britain, Europe and North America up to 13,000 years ago, scientists from Oxford University have found.

Remains of giant cats previously discovered were thought to be a species of jaguar or tiger but after DNA analysis they were proved to be lions.

They were 25% bigger than the species of African lion living today, and had longer legs to chase their prey.

They would have lived in icy tundra with mammoth and sabretooth tigers.

It is thought these animals would hunt over longer distances, and their longer legs would help them chase down their prey as opposed to the modern-day species which tends to ambush its victims.

The Oxford team analysed DNA from fossils and other remains gathered from Germany to Siberia, and Alaska to Wyoming.

Dr Ross Barnett, who conducted the research at Oxford University's department of Zoology, said: "These ancient lions were like a super-sized version of today's lions and, in the Americas, with longer legs adapted for endurance running.

"What our genetic evidence shows is that these ancient extinct lions and the lions of today were very closely related.

"Cave art also suggests that they formed prides, although the males in the pictures would not have had manes and they are depicted very realistically."

Lions appear to have been very important to early man with many depictions of them in their cave paintings, as in seen in the pre-historic cave complex at Chauvet in France.

Other archaeological finds in Germany include figurines which are half man, half lion, leading to the theory that lions may even have been worshipped by ancient humans.

The team found that these remains from the Pleistocene Epoch (1.8 million years ago to 10,000 years ago) could be divided into two groups: the American Lion which lived in North America, and the Cave Lion which lived in northern Europe, Russia, Alaska and the Yukon.

These ancient cats would have lived in an environment that was more like an icy tundra and would have shared their habitat with herds of other large animals such as mammoth, woolly rhino, sabre tooth tigers and giant deer.

About 13,000 years ago these species died out in a mass extinction. Figuring out the reason behind this, Dr Barnett said, was one of the last great scientific mysteries.

He said: "There are a couple of different schools of thought. It could have been climate change or something to do with humans. Humans could have been killing off their prey or killing the lions themselves.

"The extinction is a big question that remains unresolved. More research and more advanced genetic analysis may help answer it."

Posted Image

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/oxfordshire/7974948.stm




Lion prides form to win turf wars

Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Posted Image
The bigger the gang, the more successful the lions are

Lions form prides to defend territory against other lions, not to improve their hunting success, a study reveals.

In doing so, they act much like street gangs, gathering together to protect their turf from interlopers, says a leading lion expert.

The bigger the gang, the more successful the lions are, information that could help conserve wild lions.

The discovery helps explain why lions, uniquely among the cat species, live together in social groups.

Lions stand out amongst all the cat species for their gregarious nature.

Across Africa and Asia, lions form prides of varying sizes comprising one or more males and often numerous females and cubs.

But why they do so has remained a mystery. A long-standing idea is that female lions socialise in order to hunt cooperatively. But despite the common sight of multiple females working together to outflank and bring down large prey, there is no clear link between how many lions hunt together and their hunting success.

Another is that lions gather to protect territory. Indeed, a range of animals from social insects to primates form social groups that defend territories against competitors.

But while there has been anecdotal evidence that bigger groups have a competitive advantage, the idea has never been rigorously tested over long periods of time.

That has now changed with a study analysing the behaviour of 46 lion prides living in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

'Street gangs'

Conducted by ecologists Anna Mosser and Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota in St Paul, US, the study collated data about the prides' behaviour over 38 years, including where they ranged, their composition and how they interacted.

Mosser's and Packer's key finding was that competition between lion prides significantly affects the mortality and reproductive success of female lions, they report in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Posted Image
Male lions kill females to influence the balance of power

Larger prides with more adult females not only produced more cubs, as might be expected, but the females within these prides were less likely to be wounded or killed by other lions.

Prides with more females were also more likely to gain control of areas disputed with neighbouring prides, and those prides that recruited lone females improved the quality of their territory.

"The most important way to think about this is that lion prides are like street gangs," says Packer.

"They compete for turf. The bigger the gang, the more successful it is at controlling the best areas. The main difference from humans is that these are gangs of female lions."

Best 'real estate'

Both researchers think the study, alongside other work they have yet to publish, finally confirms that bigger prides form to defend territory.

"The advantage of large group size for group-territorial animals has been suspected for a long time, but had never been proven with data," says Mosser. "With this paper, we were able to do just that because of the many groups studied over a long period."

One surprise revealed by the research is that male lions turn out to play a much bigger role in how prides interact than expected.

Quote:
 
LION FAMILY LIFE

  • A lion pride is made of one to 21 females, their offspring, and a temporary coalition of 1 to 9 males
  • One-third of female lions in the Serengeti leave their mother's pride to form a new one
  • Males leave their pride by age 4, to go solo or form a coalition with other males
  • Large coalitions of female lions are so successful at dominating small neighbouring prides that male lions step in to try to alter the balance of power. Males will often attack and attempt to kill female lions in neighbouring prides to tip the odds in favour of their own pride.
[/size]


"Males turn out to be playing a greater role than we realised," says Packer. "Males attack females from neighbouring prides, likely altering the balance of power in favour of 'their' females."

The territorial advantages gained by coming together into larger social groups would have driven the evolution of social behaviour in lions, say the researchers.

"It also confirms a pattern that is probably applicable for many species, including group-territorial ants, birds, and chimpanzees," says Mosser, who is now at The Jane Goodhall Institute, in Kigoma, Tanzania.

Such insights will help with the conservation of lions, the numbers of which are suspected to have fallen by at least a third across Africa over the past two decades.

The research shows that "the lions are competing for relatively scarce 'hotspots' of high value real estate," says Packer.

So "lion numbers are ultimately limited by the number of hotspots that are safely inside national parks".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8120000/8120712.stm





West and Central African Lions Are Genetically Different from Those in East and Southern Africa

ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2011) — Researchers from the Institute of Environmental Sciences and the Leiden Institute of Biology in the Netherlands have recently published the findings of their genetic research on lions, which reveals a remarkable difference between lions in West and Central Africa and lions in East and southern Africa.

The study, from which the results were published in the Journal of Biogeography, was conducted by a consortium of researchers from a number of different universities.

Genetically different

The outcome of their research suggests that lions from West and Central Africa are genetically different from lions in East and southern Africa. The researchers analysed a region on the mitochondrial DNA of lions from all over Africa and from India, including sequences from extinct lions such as the Atlas lions in Morocco. Surprisingly, lions from West and Central Africa seemed to be more related to lions from the Asiatic subspecies than to their counterparts in East and southern Africa.

Previous research has already suggested that lions in West and Central Africa are smaller in size and weight, have smaller manes, live in smaller groups, eat smaller prey and may also differ in the shape of their skull, compared to their counterparts in East and southern Africa. However, this research was not backed by conclusive scientific evidence. The present research findings show that the difference is also reflected in the genetic makeup of the lions.

Barriers for dispersal

The distinction between lions from West and Central Africa and individuals from East and southern Africa can partially be explained by the location of natural structures that may form barriers for lion dispersal. These structures include the Central African rain forest and the Rift Valley, which stretches from Ethiopia to Tanzania and from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Mozambique. Another aspect explaining the unique genetic position of the West and Central African lion is the climatological history of this part of the continent.

It is hypothesised that a local extinction occurred, following periods of severe drought 40,000 to 8,000 years ago. During this period, lions continuously ranged deep into Asia and it is likely that conditions in the Middle East were still sufficiently favourable to sustain lion populations. The data published in the Journal of Biogeography suggest that West and Central Africa was recolonised by lions from areas close to India, which explains the close genetic relationship between lions from these two areas.

Declining population

There are thought to be some 1,700 lions left in West and Central Africa, which is less than 10% of the total estimated lion population in Africa. Lions in West and Central Africa are declining and are under severe threat due to the fragmentation or even destruction of their natural savannah habitat, the depletion of prey and retaliatory killing by livestock owners. The West and Central African lion is currently categorised as 'Regionally Endangered', according to IUCN criteria. Recent surveys in a large number of Lion Conservation Units in this region were, in fact, not able to confirm the presence of lions.

Other carnivore species, such as the wild dog and the cheetah, have become almost extinct in the region, with small populations surviving in Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso. These populations also appears to be struggling, suffering primarily from habitat loss and degradation, and conflict with local people.

Conservation

To save the last remaining large carnivores in this region, a new initiative has been launched: the 'Large Carnivore Initiative for West and Central Africa'. This initiative is supported by a large number of conservation organisations. Insights into the geographic pattern of genetic variation within a species can contribute significantly to the field of wildlife conservation. The patterns described in this publication should have consequences not only for in situ wildlife management, but also for management of zoo populations and captive breeding programmes.

Posted Image
Lions in Pendjari National Park, Benin.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Journal Reference:

L. D. Bertola, W. F. van Hooft, K. Vrieling, D. R. Uit de Weerd, D. S. York, H. Bauer, H. H. T. Prins, P. J. Funston, H. A. Udo de Haes, H. Leirs, W. A. van Haeringen, E. Sogbohossou, P. N. Tumenta, H. H. de Iongh. Genetic diversity, evolutionary history and implications for conservation of the lion (Panthera leo) in West and Central Africa. Journal of Biogeography, 2011; DOI: [url]10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02500.x[/url]

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110401085113.htm




Lions Kill and Go Away, to Kill Again Another Day

Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 08 August 2011 Time: 07:58 AM

Lions apparently flee the scenes of their crimes, withdrawing after successful kills while other potential prey are still on high alert, researchers have found by using satellites to track some of the deadly African cats.

This research into the minds of lions sheds light on why and when large predators move on from one hunting ground to the next, a crucial decision when the stakes are survival or starvation. In turn, such insights could lead to better designs of protected areas for African lions, whose numbers have shrunk by half in 30 years.

Deciphering the strategies of predators is difficult enough when they are captive, not to mention when they are free to range far in the wild.

"Such fieldwork is time-consuming, difficult and potentially dangerous," said researcher Marion Valeix, an ecologist at the University of Oxford in England and the French National Center for Scientific Research.

Scientists have had two ideas regarding why large mammalian carnivores depart a hunting ground. In the "unsuccessful hunt" hypothesis, predators hunt everything they can and then move on. In the alternate "patch disturbance" hypothesis, hunters leave after a successful kill to give remaining prey time to lower their guard — allowing the predators to return and blindside them. [Lions Attack Humans When Full Moon Wanes]

To see which strategy lions adopted, researchers followed the movements of eight African lions wearing global positioning system collars and ranging over about 2,700 square miles (7,000 square kilometers) in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

Scientists matched the whereabouts of these big cats with 164 lion kills tracked down between 2005 and 2007. They found that after 87 percent of kills, the lions traveled at least three miles (five kilometers) or more, suggesting they were departing the scenes of their crimes.

"We showed the need for these animals to rotate their hunting between several hunting grounds — for example, waterholes in the Hwange ecosystem," Valeix told LiveScience. "This has implications regarding the configuration and size of lion home range and needs to be taken into account in the design of small conservation reserves."

Most studies focusing on large carnivores have considered them and large herbivores to be rather static variables.

"The most important implication of our findings is that they make a strong case for the crucial need to consider the behavior of large carnivores and large herbivores in a dynamic framework — lions continuously adjust to the behavior of their prey, which continuously adjust to the whereabouts of their predators."

In the future, the scientists plan to study both the behavior of predator and prey at the same time. They detailed their new findings in the August issue of the journal American Naturalist.

http://www.livescience.com/15437-african-lions-kills-satellites.html
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"Schaller describes several lion fights he and associates witnessed while doing field research nearby that did not turn out so well for the losers.
To quote extensively from "The Serengeti Lion" (a National Book Award Winner when first published in 1972 and still a fine read) ... "Lions showed little restraint when biting each other and some wounds caused rapid death. Several cubs were bitten to death. One of the Seronera males died after a fight. One nomadic male was killed presumably by another male in a brief but violent battle: the nomad had been bitten thrrough the nape, breaking his neck ... On March 16 ... G. Dove watched a lioness walk, then crawl toward a male on a kill near Lake Lagaja. Suddenly he attacked her, and, after a brief flurry, she collapsed, quivered, and lay still. She had been bitten through the back of the neck ... Schenkel watched a male pursue a lioness, bite her in the lower back and shake her, thereby breaking her vertebral column in two places. The lioness was paralzyed in her hind quarters and died about 20 minutes later."

http://members.aol.com/bhilton665/tanzania_rainy_2006/lion_fight.htm
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DNA Confirms Genetically Distinct Lion Population for Ethiopia

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2012) — A team of international researchers has provided the first comprehensive DNA evidence that the Addis Ababa lion in Ethiopia is genetically unique and is urging immediate conservation action to preserve this vulnerable lion population.
While it has long been noted that some lions in Ethiopia have a large, dark mane, extending from the head, neck and chest to the belly, as well as being smaller and more compact than other lions, it was not known until now if these lions represent a genetically distinct population.
The team of researchers, led by the University of York, UK, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, has shown that captive lions at the Addis Ababa Zoo in Ethiopia are, in fact, genetically distinct from all lion populations for which comparative data exists, both in Africa and Asia.
The researchers compared DNA samples from 15 Addis Ababa Zoo lions (eight males and seven females) to lion breeds in the wild. The results of the study, which also involved researchers from Leipzig Zoo and the Universities of Durham and Oxford, UK, are published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.
Principal Investigator Professor Michi Hofreiter, of the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: "To our knowledge, the males at Addis Ababa Zoo are the last existing lions to possess this distinctive mane. Both microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA data suggest the zoo lions are genetically distinct from all existing lion populations for which comparative data exist.
"We therefore believe the Addis Ababa lions should be treated as a distinct conservation management unit and are urging immediate conservation actions, including a captive breeding programme, to preserve this unique lion population."
The lion (Panthera leo) is the principal terrestrial predator in Africa and therefore a key species of the savannah ecosystem. Lion numbers are in serious decline and two significant populations of lion -- the North African Barbary lions and the South African Cape lions have already become extinct in the wild.
One of the regions with a declining lion population is Ethiopia. In addition to a few hundred wild lions scattered throughout the country, 20 lions are kept in the Addis Ababa Zoo. These lions belonged to the collection of the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie. He established the zoo in 1948 and the seven founder lions (five males and two females) are claimed to have been captured in south-western Ethiopia, although their geographical origin is controversial.
In their study, the team of researchers recommend establishing a captive breeding programme as a first step towards conserving this unique lion population.
Lead author Susann Bruche, now with Imperial College London, but who conducted the research with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said: "A great amount of genetic diversity in lions has most likely already been lost, largely due to human influences. Every effort should be made to preserve as much of the lion's genetic heritage as possible. We hope field surveys will identify wild relatives of the unique Addis Ababa Zoo lions in the future, but conserving the captive population is a crucial first step. Our results show that these zoo lions harbour sufficient genetic diversity to warrant a captive breeding programme."
It has previously been suggested that no lions comparable to those at Addis Ababa Zoo still exist in the wild, mainly due to hunting for their mane. However, the researchers say that according to the Ethiopian authorities, lions with a similar appearance to those at Addis Ababa Zoo still exist in the east and north-east of the country, notably in the Babille Elephant Sanctuary near Harar and southwards to Hararghe. These regions, the researchers say, should be prioritised for field surveys.
Professor Hofreiter said: "A key question is which wild population did the zoo lions originate from and whether this wild population still exists; this would obviously make it a priority for conservation. What is clear is that these lions did not originate in the zoo, but come from somewhere in the wild -- but not from any of the populations for which comparative data is available."

Posted Image
A group of lions at the Addis Ababa Zoo in Ethiopia have dark manes that cover their chest and belly.

Journal Reference:
Susann Bruche, Markus Gusset, Sebastian Lippold, Ross Barnett, Klaus Eulenberger, Jörg Junhold, Carlos A. Driscoll, Michael Hofreiter. A genetically distinct lion (Panthera leo) population from Ethiopia. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s10344-012-0668-5

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011085336.htm
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Male Lions Use Ambush Hunting Strategy

Mar. 18, 2013 — It has long been believed that male lions are dependent on females when it comes to hunting. But new evidence suggests that male lions are, in fact, very successful hunters in their own right. A new report from a team including Carnegie's Scott Loarie and Greg Asner shows that male lions use dense savanna vegetation for ambush-style hunting in Africa.
Their work is published in Animal Behavior.
Female lions have long been observed to rely on cooperative strategies to hunt their prey. While some studies demonstrated that male lions are as capable at hunting as females, the males are less likely to cooperate, so there were still questions as to how the males manage to hunt successfully. The possibility that male lions used vegetation for ambushing prey was considered, but it was difficult to study given the logistics and dangers of making observations of lions in densely vegetated portions of the African savanna.
Loarie and Asner, working with Craig Tambling from the University of Pretoria, combined different types of technology to change the game.
First the authors created 3-D maps of the savanna vegetation using laser pulses that sweep across the African plains. They did this using a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanner mounted on the fixed-wing Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) aircraft. They combined these 3-D habitat maps with GPS data on predator-prey interactions from a pride of seven lions in South Africa's Kruger National Park to quantify the lines of sight, or "viewsheds," where lions did their killing in comparison to where they rested.
They found that while a preference for shade caused both male and female lions to rest in areas with dense vegetation and similarly short viewsheds during the day, the real difference between males and females emerged at night. Female lions both rested and hunted under the cover of darkness in areas with large viewsheds. But at night, male lions hunted in the dense vegetation, areas where prey is highly vulnerable, but which researchers rarely explore. The scientific results show that ambushing prey from behind vegetation is linked to hunting success among male lions, despite lacking the cooperative strategies employed by female lions in open grassy savannas.
"By strongly linking male lion hunting behavior to dense vegetation, this study suggests that changes to vegetation structure, such as through fire management, could greatly alter the balance of predators and prey," Loarie said.
The authors emphasized that their findings should be confirmed in other studies throughout Africa's savannas. Nevertheless, these results could have major implications for park management, which is often heavily involved with manipulating vegetation.
"With large mammals increasingly confined to protected areas, understanding how to maintain their habitat to best support their natural behavior is a critical conservation priority," Asner said. This study highlights the rapidly evolving role of high-tech measurements for never-before-undertaken research in geographically complex and often dangerous conditions. Three-dimensional imaging of ecological habitats by the CAO, along with GPS tracking of species inside those habitats, has opened new doors to understand how species interact with one another throughout their native environments, doors that couldn't have been opened without these technological advances.

Posted Image

Journal Reference:
Scott R. Loarie, Craig J. Tambling, Gregory P. Asner. Lion hunting behaviour and vegetation structure in an African savanna. Animal Behaviour, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.01.018

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318132639.htm
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Cougar
Jun 3 2012, 05:38 PM
Came across this interesting article written by an Anthropologist at the University of Winsconsin.-

"Lion predation on elephants
home :: reviews :: life_history :: risk :: lion_elephant_predation_2006.w

I'm reading a bit about risk in large animal hunting, and I ran across an article by Dereck Joubert on elephant hunting by lions in Botswana.

Over the 4 years, we observed a total of 74 elephants killed by lions, including eleven elephants in 1993, seventeen in 1994, nineteen in 1995, and 27 in 1996, suggesting an increasing hunting success rate. All the elephants killed, with one exception, were from breeding herds (females and young). The exception was an adult bull, previously wounded by another bull, who remained alive for several days before eventually being killed by the lions. The great majority of the young elephants killed were males, and two-thirds of the kills were of elephants in the age range 4-15 years, with highest hunting success achieved for elephants aged 4-9 years (Table 1). The animals killed were commonly on the periphery of, or straggling behind, the breeding herds, with nearly half killed more than 50 m away from the main herd. Hunts were less commonly attempted on calves which were under the age of 4 years, which remained more closely associated with their mothers. Hunting success for elephants older than 4 years apparently doubled from 33% (n = 9) in 1993 to 62% (n = 61) in 1996. Many attempts to kill adults bulls were made in 1996, when we saw lions attacking elephant bulls almost nightly although only one hunt was successful. All except one of the kills were made at night, and hunts occurred more commonly on dark moon nights than when the moon was bright.

Well, hunting elephants ought to be pretty risky (otherwise, lions would do it all the time, right?). So how many lions got hurt during all these hunts?

There was a close resemblance between the methods that the lions used to hunt elephants and the technique commonly used to hunt buffalo. This tactic included first opportunistically detecting a straggler, or targeting a vulnerable member of the herd, then circling behind the selected prey. The lions then attacked by running in as a group. One or more lions leapt up onto the back or lower flanks and orientated along the spine of the prey. They then bit down on the backbone. The lion positioned highest up the spine would still be behind the ears of the elephant and just far enough back to be out of reach of the extended trunk. The elephant was then pulled down to its knees, not collapsed because of any fatal bite to the spine. Another approach involved a running hunt causing confusion and bunching of the elephant herds. This often resulted in one elephant falling or getting separated. In all cases a rear attack was employed, never a frontal attack. In one notable case, a single male lion ran at nearly full speed into the side of a 6-year-old male calf with sufficient force to collapse the elephant on its side. On only one occasion was a lion injured by an elephant in these hunts. In that case, the elephant collapsed on top of the lion. The resulting injury to the head was therefore recorded as accidental rather than as a result of a counterattack by the elephant.

OK, so the lions mostly limited their hunts to a class of most vulnerable elephants (subadults old enough to be isolated from their mothers, and inattentive to predators -- males amounted to 236 confirmed attempts versus 38 for females!). They adopted a special hunting style that they use for other dangerous large prey animals, attacking from the back by ambush. And during all these hunts (which totaled 74 kills out of 323 attempts) only one lion was confirmed injured. The paper doesn't say how serious the injury was, or if itwas eventually fatal, but elephant-falling-on-lion can't be a good situation.

Now, the relevant measure of risk in this instance is the injury rate (or even better, death rate) per successful kill. Unsuccessful attempts might fail for many reasons, including injury, but none of these unsuccessful attempts satisfy anybody's energetic requirements. So we have one serious injury per 74 kills. There may have been other injuries that weren't major enough to be observed or counted. Limiting to the one that was counted, we have a rate of serious injury of around 1.33 percent per kill; divided among the average number of lions that participated, which isn't specified.

From the elephant perspective, there appears to be a case for strategic indifference of adult males to predation on the younger males:


When these young elephants finished and called out to their families, the lions attacked. There was surprisingly little response from other nearby elephants. Older calves were attacked and killed within 50 m of the drinking bulls. The distress calls of the young elephant and lion growls seldom distracted them from drinking.

Tough to be a young male elephant.
References:
Joubert D. 2006. Hunting behaviour of lions (Panthera leo) on elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Chobe National Park, Botswana. Afr J Ecol 44:279-281. DOI

http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/life_history/risk/lion_elephant_predation_2006.w
Another study!

Lion predation on elephants in the Savuti, Chobe National Park, Botswana
R. John Power* & R.X. Shem Compion
Carnivore Conservation Group, Endangered Wildlife Trust, De Beers Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve,
P.O.Box 192, Musina, 0900 South Africa
Received 17 July 2007. Accepted 13 January 2009

Abstract
Lions rarely prey on elephants. Botswana’s Savuti lions, however, switch to preying on
elephants during the late dry season (August–November), and the frequency of this has
increased in the last two decades (1985–2005). An opportunity to document this phenomenon
was made possible with infrared viewing and filming equipment. A pride of 30 lions killed one
elephant every three days. Seven of eight elephants killed were between four and 11 years old,
as deduced from molar teeth ageing, and this age group represented over half the kills recorded
by Joubert (2006). It is suggested that this weaned, maternally less dependent age
class, may be more vulnerable to lion predation. Lions prey on elephants since the density of
conventional ungulate prey is reduced as a result of an annual migration, and artificial water
provisioning has prompted an increasingly sedentary population of elephants. Notes are presented
on the lion’s behaviour in hunting elephants and the evolutionary significance of this.


PDF : Lion predation on elephants in the Savuti, Chobe National Park, Botswana
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Evolution of a Predator: How Big Cats Became Carnivores

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | September 17, 2013 11:00am ET

Posted Image
The Siberian tiger, also known as Panthera tigris altaica

The biggest and perhaps most fearsome of the world's big cats, the tiger shares 95.6 percent of its DNA with humans' cute and furry companions, domestic cats.

That's one of the findings from the newly sequenced genomes of tigers, snow leopards and lions.

The new research showed that big cats have genetic mutations that enabled them to be carnivores. The team also identified mutations that allow snow leopards to thrive at high altitudes.

The findings, detailed today (Sept. 17) in the journal Nature Communications, could help conservation efforts by preventing closely related captive animals from breeding, said Jong Bhak, a geneticist at the Personal Genomics Institute in South Korea.

Lions and tigers

Tigers are the biggest members of the cat family and are closely related to other big cats, such as snow leopards and lions. The predatory felines are critically endangered, and only 3,050 to 3,950 tigers are thought to remain in the wild. Without tiger conservation, most scientists believe the iconic orange cats will eventually go extinct.

To aid those efforts, Bhak and his colleagues sequenced the genome of a 9-year-old Amur tiger living in the Everland Zoo in South Korea. The team also acquired DNA from around the world and compared the Amur tiger genome with that of the white Bengal tiger, the African lion, the white African lion and the snow leopard.

The tiger shares 95.6 percent of its genome with the domestic cat, from which it diverged about 10.8 million years ago, the comparison showed.

In addition, several genes were altered in metabolic pathways associated with protein digestion and metabolism, or how the body uses fuel like food to power cells. Those changes, which evolved over tens of millions of years, likely enable the majestic felines to digest and rely solely on meat, Bhak said.

Big cats also have several mutations that make for powerful, fast-acting muscles — a necessity when chasing down prey.

The team also found two genes in the snow leopard that allow it to thrive in the low-oxygen conditions of its high-altitude habitat in the Himalayan Mountains. Those genetic changes are similar to ones found in the naked mole rat, which also lives in low-oxygen conditions, though underground. In addition, the genetic analysis identified the mutations that give Bengal tigers and white African lions their distinctive white coats, Bhak said.

The new results could aid conservation efforts by giving scientists a tool to estimate genetic diversity in the wild.

By sequencing the genomes of tigers and other endangered cats like snow leopards, "we can find whether they are inbreeding," Bhak told LiveScience. "If their population diversity is very low, then one flu virus can kill a lot of them quickly, because they have the same genetic makeup."

Scientists can then take measures to introduce fresh blood into the population, which could make it more resilient.

The genomes can also aid captive breeding programs by helping zoos choose animals that aren't closely related for mating, he added.

http://www.livescience.com/39695-tiger-lion-leopard-genome-sequenced.html




The tiger genome and comparative analysis with lion and snow leopard genomes

Yun Sung Cho, Li Hu, Haolong Hou, Hang Lee, Jiaohui Xu, Soowhan Kwon, Sukhun Oh, Hak-Min Kim, Sungwoong Jho, Sangsoo Kim, Young-Ah Shin, Byung Chul Kim, Hyunmin Kim, Chang-uk Kim, Shu-Jin Luo, Warren E. Johnson, Klaus-Peter Koepfli, Anne Schmidt-Küntzel, Jason A. Turner, Laurie Marker et al.

Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2433 doi:10.1038/ncomms3433
Received 02 May 2013 Accepted 13 August 2013 Published 17 September 2013

Abstract
Tigers and their close relatives (Panthera) are some of the world’s most endangered species. Here we report the de novo assembly of an Amur tiger whole-genome sequence as well as the genomic sequences of a white Bengal tiger, African lion, white African lion and snow leopard. Through comparative genetic analyses of these genomes, we find genetic signatures that may reflect molecular adaptations consistent with the big cats’ hypercarnivorous diet and muscle strength. We report a snow leopard-specific genetic determinant in EGLN1 (Met39>Lys39), which is likely to be associated with adaptation to high altitude. We also detect a TYR260G>A mutation likely responsible for the white lion coat colour. Tiger and cat genomes show similar repeat composition and an appreciably conserved synteny. Genomic data from the five big cats provide an invaluable resource for resolving easily identifiable phenotypes evident in very close, but distinct, species.

Posted Image
(a) Orthologous gene clusters in mammalian species. The Venn diagram shows the number of unique and shared gene families among seven mammalian genomes. (b) Gene expansion or contraction in the tiger genome. Numbers designate the number of gene families that have expanded (green, +) and contracted (red, −) after the split from the common ancestor. The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) has 17,841 gene families. The time lines indicate divergence times among the species.

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/130917/ncomms3433/full/ncomms3433.html
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