CONCEPTS

The lion

We tell you all about the lion, where it lives and how it reproduces. In addition, how it feeds and its characteristics.

  1. The lion

The lion (scientific name Panthera leo ) is a large carnivorous feline . It is native to Sub-Saharan Africa and certain regions of India, where it is the largest predator of the food chain . It is one of the best known and feared wild animals for humanity, for its fierceness, but also admired and represented in symbols, stories and sculptures.

The ancestors of the lions appeared 4.1 to 5.9 million years ago, and from them derive all four species of the genus Panthera : the tiger, the jaguar, the lion and the leopard. These last two separated evolutionarily 1.25 million years ago, and emerged as we know them today in Africa between 1 million and 800,000 years ago .

During the upper Pleistocene they spread throughout the five continents, giving rise to the extinct American lion and the puma, until in the last ice age, 10,000 years ago, they became extinct in Europe, America and almost all of Asia.

Humanity has had contact with lions since ancient times, and has seen in them a symbol of nobility, ferocity and masculinity. Therefore, it is common to find them in ancient stories, in country flags, in family shields and even as a symbol of one of the four biblical gospels.

Despite this and being powerful predators, lions are among the vulnerable and susceptible to extinction . In the last decades their populations suffered a decline of between 30 and 50%, making their life not viable outside the delimited ecological reserves.

The loss of their habitat and conflicts with human populations are partly responsible for this phenomenon, so many zoologists around the world collaborate to try to increase the numbers of the species in captivity.

  1. Lions characteristics

leon herd pups feline
Lions are sociable and usually live in packs.

Like all felines, lions are quadrupeds and mammals . They have a long tail, a short, yellowish coat, as well as a blonde or dark mane around the neck in the case of males. With an exclusively carnivorous diet, they are fierce hunters , capable of holding the prey with their claws and tearing large portions of meat with their sharp fangs.

They are next to the tigers the biggest felines that exist: they can measure about 2 to 3 meters (males) or 1.80 to 2.7 meters (females) in length , and reaching a weight of 160 to 260 kg (males) or 120 to 182 kg (females).

On the other hand, their temperament is rather sleepy: they dedicate about 20 hours a day to rest and inactivity , having instead their periods of socialization at sunset and their hours of hunting, usually during the night. They spend about two hours a day walking and about 50 minutes a day to eat.

Lions, unlike the rest of the felines, are quite sociable creatures, which usually form herds . Traditionally, females have a family bond and a smaller number of males, together with the young of the former.

It is common to see them give affection by licking and scrubbing, as well as marking their territory through urine and through the intimidating presence of the dominant male and his fierce roars.

  1. Where do lions live?

Lions became a very widespread species in Africa and the Near East, as well as the Indian subcontinent. Currently, however, it is known that wild lions inhabit very restricted regions of southeast and central Africa , as well as in very specific regions of northwestern India.

By nature they prefer grasslands and savannas , rarely entering forested regions.

  1. Lions feeding

lion carnivore feeding caster predator prey
Lions are predatory carnivores and often hunt large mammals.

These are eminently carnivorous creatures, great hunters of the African plains. The hunt takes place through coordinated and pack attacks, trying to isolate and besiege the prey as quickly as possible, as they do not have a particularly high physical resistance. In fact, they can reach speeds of up to 60 kmph, but only over short distances.

Their favorite prey is usually large mammals , such as wildebeest, buffalo, impalas, zebras, wild boars, deer or young giraffes, and even seals, if they manage to find one on the coast of Namibia. If they live near herds of cattle, it is likely that some cattle are also taken from time to time.

The hunt is organized by sex: the females hunt together , with occasional help from the males, but the product of this hunt will be for them and for the young; males must hunt food on their own .

Finally, lions are not very prone to anthropophagy, but it is always possible for isolated events to occur. In general, lions have much more to fear the human being.

  1. Lion reproduction

white lions baby - newborn
Two white lions cubs, South Africa.

Lions are reproduced in a sexual way , like all mammals , and animals are viviparous . In each pregnancy a female can give birth between one and four young in a burrow isolated from the rest of the herd. The females have several times of heat a year, during which they can mate with several lions, then having a gestation of 110 days on average .

When the young are old enough, the females reintegrate into the herd. There puppies play and learn to hunt and take their place in the social hierarchy. Once adulthood is reached, many of the old offspring are expelled by the herd to seek their own territory.

  1. How long does a lion live?

Lions have relatively short lives . Under ideal conditions and in a protected environment, such as National Parks, a lioness can reach 12 to 14 years of age , while males rarely exceed 8. However, cases of particularly long-lived lionesses are known, which They reached almost 20 years in the wild.

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