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Location: Big Cats
Tags: lion / panthera / leo

Lion (Panthera Leo)



Lion (Panthera Leo)
Order: Carnivora, Family: Felidae

Lions are low to the ground, but large and powerful. The average male weighs 416 pounds and stands 48 inches high. The average female weighs 277 pounds and measures 44 inches tall. The lion's coat is short except for a tufted tail, and in the male's case, the mane, which it starts to grow at 3 years of age. Lions are tawny in color, with males having buff-colored underparts and females white. The backs of its ears, as well as its tail tuft and lips, are black. Manes vary from blond to black. Cubs are born with woolly gray, spotted fur, and begin to get their adult coats at 3 months old. The lion has sharp, retractable claws on each paw and hinge-like jaws containing 2-inch canines.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • Lions are low to the ground, but large and powerful. The average male weighs 416 pounds and stands 48 inches high. The average female weighs 277 pounds and measures 44 inches tall.
  • The lion's coat is short except for a tufted tail, and in the male's case, the mane, which it starts to grow at 3 years of age.
  • Lions are tawny in color, with males having buff-colored underparts and females white. The backs of its ears, as well as its tail tuft and lips, are black. Manes vary from blond to black.
  • Cubs are born with woolly gray, spotted fur, and begin to get their adult coats at 3 months old.
  • The lion has sharp, retractable claws on each paw and hinge-like jaws containing 2-inch canines.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • Lions inhabit sub-Saharan Africa (except for deserts and rain forests), wherever medium-sized and large herbivores survive.
  • They often rest in trees, and near water holes during the day to cool off.
III. DIET:
  • The lion's diet consists of a variety of meats, from small insects to large herbivores such as giraffes.
  • Hungry or curious lions often eat smaller game, including rodents, birds, turtles, lizards and even fish. Lions also occasionally eat ostrich eggs, which they have a knack for opening.
  • Lionesses are the hunters in the pride. When they make their kill, they eat all their prey at once. Occasionally a lioness will hide the carcass behind bushy vegetation to keep predators from stealing it and eat it there.
  • If prey is not available, lions will scavenge for food.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • When prey is plentiful, lions spend 20 hours a day conserving energy.
  • Lion society is based on prides of related females.
  • Prides consist of one or more family units. A family unit contains one or two males and a number of females and cubs. A typical pride numbers about 13, though one pride can have as many as 30 to 40 members.
  • Reproductive competition is very fierce, and males often form coalitions to improve their chances. Coalition partners are usually related males that left their pride as adolescents and stayed together as nomads until they were mature and ready to compete.
  • Infanticide is a consequence of severe competition. Given that lions have so little time to propagate their genes, sexual selection rewards males that kill all the suckling young of defeated rivals. When a nursing lioness loses her cubs, she comes into heat in a few weeks.
  • Females start breeding at 4 years old and males at 5 years.
  • Gestation lasts 14 to 15 weeks; there are typically three cubs per litter.
  • Cubs weigh 2 to 4.5 pounds at birth; open their eyes at 3 to 11 days old; walk at 10 to 15 days; and run at 1 month old.
  • After four to eight weeks in hiding, the mother begins leading the cubs to nearby kills. They are weaned at 7 to 10 months of age but remain dependent until they're 16 months old.
  • Lion hunts usually involve three to eight lionesses driving a quarry into an ambush.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • For every cub that reaches the yearling stage, lions copulate an estimated 3,000 times.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:
  • Lions kill and eat all other carnivores, including leopards and cheetahs. They rarely eat hyenas, which are the only animals regularly known to attack and even kill a lion for food.
  • Attacks on livestock and humans are occasionally reported.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
  • The lion's status is threatened. Lions receive some protection under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species. Within national parks, their populations tend to be very stable, but outside they fluctuate with food supplies and human intervention.
  • Because large prides live in open savannas, they serve as easy targets for poachers and hunters.
  • In some sanctuaries, tourists come to observe these beasts' behavior; within such confines, the lion's survival is not endangered.



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