Friday, November 30, 2007

The Real Lion King

The lion is at one the most famous and the least typical member of the cat family. Sociality is probably the single most exciting aspect of lion life and, as compared to other cats, cannot be overemphasized. Other cats are solitary hunters; the lion is a cooperative group hunter. Other cats live alone, the lion lives in prides. The lions social level is closer to wolves and wild dogs than to the other cat species. In addition, with other cats the male and female do not look conspicuously different; with lions, the huge, dark mane of the male sets him clearly apart from the maneless female. Another small difference: the lion is the only cat species to have a knoblike tuft of dark hair at the tip of its tail. Studies of lions in the wild have rightly brought the female lion into the spotlight. Females are the basis of lion society: they are the hunters, cub rearers, and property owners and defenders. Female lions can survive on their own, but they only thrive as members of a kin group. As a communal creature, the female lion has few equals. That great symbol, the imposing male, is a loner by human design only. In reality, in the wild, a male's chances of survival alone are at best slim, and not helped by its all too visible mane that alerts enemies as well as prey.
Even in groups though, males have a hard life. They seldom live longer than 12 years in the wild while females sometimes reach 16 or older. Even when an old female loses most of her teeth the pride will wait for her and share with her, as long as she can keep up. When males are old, they are ousted from the pride by younger and stronger males. Exiled males can steal from most other predators but if they have to hunt on their own they fare poorly and often get terrible wounds from kicks and horns. When they lose their teeth or health, or, indeed, when they lose a team-mate they soon die.
Valerie Hines


At 8:47 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I enjoyed reading your article. Over Thanksgiving break, I went to a zoo and for the first time had the opportunity to see a male and female lion up close. I was amazed to see the difference between the female and male as well as the strength and power these animals possess. When I was reading your article, I was a bit confused as to why lions lose their teeth. Also, is there any interesting research currently being conducted about lions? Other then those two questions, I thought your article was very interesting!

Kathryn DeLisle (10)


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