Lion

Lion

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Panthera leo
Population size
20,000
Life Span
12-25 yrs
TOP SPEED
56 km/h
WEIGHT
120-249 kg
LENGTH
140-250 cm

The lion is a big wild cat with short, tawny-colored fur and white underparts. The long tail ends with a black tuft. The lions display sexual dimorphism with males, having their distinctive manes, ranging in color from black to blond. They develop their manes at the age of 3 years. Meanwhile, manes of those, living in open areas, are notably fuller. The mane makes the lion look much larger than it is, helping the animal intimidate the opponent during confrontations with other lions as well the Spotted Hyena, which is the animal's primary competitor throughout its range. Young lions have a grayish coat, covered with brown markings, which then disappear by the age of 3 months. However, lions in eastern Africa tend to retain these spots on their stomach.

No

Nocturnal

Cr

Crepuscular

Di

Diurnal

Sc

Scavenger

Hy

Hypercarnivore

Te

Terrestrial

Al

Altricial

Pa

Pack hunters

Am

Ambush predator

Ap

Apex predator

No

Nomadic

Te

Territorial

Vi

Viviparous

Po

Polygyny

Do

Dominance hierarchy

Hi

Highly social

So

Social

No

Not a migrant

L

starts with

Ar

Aristocrats
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

Presently, lions are distributed across the sub-Saharan region of Africa and in Gir Forest in Gujarat state of India . They prefer grassy plains and savannas, scrub bordering rivers, and open woodlands with bushes. They rarely enter closed forests. Remnant populations can also be found in the tropical moist forests in West Africa and montane forests in East Africa.

Lion habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Lions can be active at any time of the day but their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing and grooming. Most hunting often takes place at dusk. Apart from that African lions spend much of their time resting. They rest in order to save energy, in the absence of prey, or to escape the midday heat. African lions are highly social animals, gathering in groups or prides, which include up to 3 male lions and multiple lionesses with their young. Prides are defended by males, who patrol and mark the territory. However, there's harsh competition between males for the territory and position in the pride. In a case, if another male overcomes the leading male of the pride, he usually kills all cubs, sired by the previous male. Meanwhile, males do not tend to hunt due to their slow speed and eye-catching appearance. Instead, hunting is left to females of the pride, who hunt in groups, cooperating with each other during their hunting trips. The females are excellent hunters: they are faster and more agile than males, able to hunt down animals that are much bigger and faster than them.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Lions are generalist hypercarnivores. They primarily hunt on zebras, antelopes, gazelles, deer, buffalos, young giraffes, warthogs, wildebeest, young elephants, less frequently – on hares and birds. Lions can also scavenge on carrion when the opportunity arises; they scavenge animals dead from natural causes such as disease or those that were killed by other predators such as hyenas.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
year-round, peak during the rainy season
PREGNANCY DURATION
110-119 days
BABY CARRYING
3-6 cubs
INDEPENDENT AGE
2 years
FEMALE NAME
lioness
MALE NAME
lion
BABY NAME
cub

Lions have a polygynous mating system, meaning that a male lion can mate with a number of lionesses. They breed throughout the year with the peak period, occurring during the rainy season. The gestation period lasts from 110 to 119 days, yielding 3-6 cubs on average. The female gives birth in a hidden, solitary nursery. Reaching the age of 4-6 weeks, the cubs join the pride. Usually, all females of the pride feed and care for the young; when a mother female leaves the pride to hunt, another lactating female will feed her cubs. Weaning occurs at the age of 6-7 months, though the cubs typically stay close to their mother during the first two years of their lives. Males become reproductively mature at 5 years old while females reach maturity earlier, at 2.5-3 years of age.

Population

Population threats

Lions have long been hunted out of fear and as trophies. However, hunting is still one of the major factors, threatening these animals' population across Africa. Currently, they suffer from loss of their range due to growing human settlements and alteration of their habitat into agricultural lands. Meanwhile, those, living nearby human settlements, are exposed to diseases, spread by domestic dogs.

Population number

Nowadays, the overall population of the lion is sharply decreasing, estimated to 20,000 individuals throughout Africa. On the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Vulnerable.

Ecological niche

Lions are an irreplaceable link in the ecosystem of their range. Feeding upon herbivorous animals such as zebras or buffaloes, they control the numbers of these species’ populations. Otherwise, these herbivores could out-compete other animals of their range, leading to the complete extinction of these species and thus destructing the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • When resting, lions display highly social and friendly behavior, spending their time together and strengthening social bonds between members of the pride: they play together, rubbing against each other's heads as well as sleep in groups.
  • Without their fur, lions and tigers look alike. They are extremely hard to distinguish from each other since their body structure is almost identical. In addition, African lions are relatives of leopards and jaguars.
  • The male lion is the only species of cat, having the identifying mane, which gives the animal a majestic appearance, bringing about the title "King of the Beasts".
  • Lions are the second (to tigers) largest living species of feline.
  • Newborn cubs possess brown-colored rosettes, which they usually lose when growing up, though some individuals retain pale markings throughout their lives.
  • In pride, females are responsible for hunting, whereas males have to defend the territory. However, in spite of this allocation of responsibilities, males always eat first.
  • The mane of a male lion gradually darkens during the animal's life, being a good indicator of the lion's age.
  • When walking, the heels of lions do not touch the ground due to the structure of their legs.

References

1. African Lion Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion
2. African Lion on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15951/0

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