Lion

(Panthera Leo)

Lions have strong, compact bodies and powerful forelegs, teeth and jaws for pulling down and killing prey. Their coats are yellow-gold, and adult males have shaggy manes that range in color from blond to reddish-brown to black. The length and color of a lion’s mane is likely determined by age, genetics and hormones. Young lions have light spotting on their coats that disappears as they grow.

Lions primarily eat large animals that weigh from 100 to 1,000 pounds, such as zebra and wildebeest. In times of shortage, they also catch and eat a variety of smaller animals, from rodents to reptiles. Lions also steal kills from hyenas, leopards and other predators. At times, they may lose their own catches to hyena groups. Lions may also feed on domestic livestock, especially in areas near villages.

Lions are the world’s most social felines. They live in groups of related females, called prides, which may comprise several to as many as 40 individual. Lion researchers have noticed that some activities are “contagious” within a pride. If one lion yawns, grooms itself, or roars, it sets off a wave of yawning, grooming, or roaring!

Lions and lionesses play different roles in the life of the pride. The lionesses work together to hunt and help rear the cubs. This allows them to get the most from their hard work, keeping them healthier and safer. Being smaller and lighter than males, lionesses are more agile and faster. During hunting, smaller females chase the prey toward the center of the hunting group. The larger and heavier lionesses ambush or capture the prey. Lionesses are versatile and can switch hunting jobs depending on which females are hunting that day and what kind of prey it is. While it may look like the lionesses do all the work in the pride, the males play an important role. While they do eat more than the lionesses and bring in far less food (they hunt less than 10 percent of the time), males patrol, mark, and guard the pride’s territory. Males also guard the cubs while the lionesses are hunting, and they make sure the cubs get enough food.

A lion’s life is filled with sleeping, napping, and resting. Over the course of 24 hours, lions have short bursts of intense activity, followed by long bouts of lying around that total up to 21 hours! Lions use their roar as one form of communication. It identifies individuals, strengthens the pride’s bond, and lets other lions know of the pride’s domain. Other sounds lions produce include growls, snarls, hisses, meows, grunts, and puffs, which sound like a stifled sneeze and is used in friendly situations.

Information collected from https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/lion and https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/lion