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kingcats - Animated Animals/Nature

BIG CAT FACTS = bigcat sounds

Big Cat Facts

Lion Trivia

Did you know….

The lion is the only big cat to display a prominent mane, present in mature males.
The Barbary Lion which is extinct, was not only one of the largest, but one of the most spectacular. Mature males had a very large and prominent mane that extended over half the body , reaching the under parts and the middle of the back. The last wild Barbary was shot in 1922, though some hybrids may still be represented in zoological collections.
The Cape Lion also had a profuse mane, which was black. Sadly these are also extinct, the last known example being killed in Natal in 1865.
Lions tend to inhabit more open areas of country than most cats, and since they live in groups, known as prides, they are probably more vulnerable to hunting pressures.
Female Lions do most of the hunting and prefer to hunt in the early evening. Working in groups, they can take down large animals such as giraffes in relative safety.

LION Basic Facts
Scientific name: Panthera leo (Was Felis leo until recently.)
Family: Felidae, Order: Carnivora, Class: Mammalia.
Male: Avg. Length: 9 ft. (2.7 meters), weight: 350-400 lbs. (157-180 Kg.).
Height: 36 in. (90cm.)
Female: Avg. Length: 8 ft. (2.4 meters), weight: 250-300 lbs. (112.5-136 Kg.).
Height: 30 in. (75 cm)
(Lengths include the tail. Height measured at the shoulder.)
No. of teeth: 30
Lifespan: 12 years in the wild, 20 years in captivity. Females typically live a few more years in the wild.
Maximum speed: 30 mph over 50 yds. ( 48 kph. over 46 m.)
Biggest Jump: 12 ft. (3.7 m.) vertical, 36 ft. (10.8 m.) horizontal.
Gestation period: 105-115 days.
Body Temperature: 101 deg. F (38.33 deg C)

Physical Characteristics
The lion is a member of the cat family, and shares many common traits of this family. The body is very muscular, with less bone mass than other animals of comparable size. This is also responsible for the grace of movement we associate with members of the cat family. The forebody of the lion is very powerfully built, and has the greatest forebody strength of any cat, except possibly the tiger. This enables the lion to deliver blows with it's forepaws heavy enough to break a zebra's back. The bones of the front legs are twisted in such a manner as to give a great range of motion to the forelimb.

Each paw is equipped with soft pads to make it's movements quiet. Like most carnivores, lions are digitigrade walkers. This means they essentially walk on their toes. But, the majority of the animal's weight is borne by the main paw pads, which would correspond on a human to the palm of the hand at the base of the fingers. Extra bones in the toe joints give the toes a wide range of motion.The claws are retractible and very sharp. The retractable feature helps keep the claws sharp, and prevents injury during play, etc. The dewclaw on the front limbs is often used as a toothpick. The claws grow as a series of layers. As a layer wears, it is shed, and a new sharp-pointed claw is exposed. The claw on a large lion can be 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) or more from base to tip along the curve.

The body is covered with a sandy brown coat in most subspecies of lions, but there is a white variant that shows up once in a while, especially in the Timbavati region of South Africa. (The white variant is also showing up more and more among captive lion populations.) Lions with a very dark brown coat have been observed, but this is quite rare. The coat color of a lion is not determined so much by the color of the hair, but by the ratio of light-colored hairs to dark-colored hairs.

The mature male lion has a mane that covers the backside of the head, and the shoulders. The extent of the mane varies from individual to individual, with some having no mane at all, while others have a luxurious mane that runs onto the body, along the abdomen, and even onto the fronts of the back legs in exceptional specimins. The mane varies in color from the rest of the body, and tends to grow darker with age. Some lions in the Serengeti area and from North Africa have a nearly black mane. Just like th body hair, the mane color is determined by the ratio of dark hairs to light hairs present. The mane hair is stiff and wiry, like stiff horeshair. Besides it's primary role of protecting the male during fights, it has been discovered that female lions prefer males with bigger and darker manes.

The eyes are proportinately larger than in other comparable-sized animals, and posess round pupils. Lions, like most cats, are visual animals. The eyes are also well-adapted for use under very low light. This helps the lion hunt at night. Contrtry to popular notion, a lion's eyes do not glow in the dark, but they contain a special reflective coating that will reflect even moonlight. This coating increses the lion's visual acuity in very low light by ensuring that every possible photon of light makes it to the cells in the retina. Their eyes are effective even by starlight. A white circle just below the eyes helps reflect light into the eyes to further improve night vision. Like most mammals, lions have a nictitating membrane which serves to clean and protect the eye in some circumstances. Lions, like most cats, have limited ability to move their eyes side-to-side, and must turn the head to look in a different direction.

The sense of smell is well developed. Lions mark their territories by means of scent deposits, necessitating a good sense of smell. This also helps them find kills made by other predators, and perhaps obtain an easy meal by driving the other predator off their kill. Another interesting thing that lions and all other cats posess is a special olfactory organ on the roof of the mouth called a Jacobson's organ. Sometimes, you will see a lion, or even your cat, grimace when smelling something. They are opening their lips to draw air over their jacobson's organs. This grimacing gesture is called Flehmen.

The sense of hearing is perhaps only slightly above average. The ears can be swiveled over a wide angle to enable the lion to hear distant sounds, and know what direction they are coming from.

The lion's tail is the only one in the cat family with a tassel at the tip. (Ligers also have a tassel, but they are not found in the wild.) This tassel conceals a spine, which is the last few tail bones fused together. What function this spine serves, if any, is unknown. The tail is very important for overall balance. Females also use their raised tail as a 'follow me' signal for the cubs. They also use it to signal each other during a group hunt.

The lion's teeth are well adapted for killing their prey and eating it. The great canine teeth are spaced such that they can slip between the cervical vertebrae of their favorite-sized prey animals, and sever the spinal cord. The shape of the back teeth, which are called carnassals instead of molars, makes them work like a pair of scissors, for cutting pieces of meat. The jaw is not capable of moving side-to-side, like ours. This helps keep the carnassal teeth in alingment for cutting. The rest of the teeth are conical, and designed for cutting and tearing. Lions, like all cats, do not chew their food, but swallow it in chunks. (This lioness is 'Sierra' at the Sierra Safari Zoo in Reno, NV.) They also use only one side of their mouth at a time. This trait is also common to all cats, and is caused by the inability of the jaw to move side-to-side. The tongue is covered with rough spines, called papialle. This helps the lion scrape meat off of bones, and acts like a comb for grooming.

The digestive system of the lion is simple, not unlike a human's. Meat is fairly easy to digest, and the elaborate digestive mechanisms present in their prey for breaking down celluose are not needed. Cats, in general have the shortest digestive tracts of all animals.

A lion's body temperature ranges from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees farenheit. (38.05 - 39.16 degrees C.)

No physical description of the lion would be complete without some mention being made about it's magnificent roar. Only four cats can roar: The lion, tiger, leopard, and jaguar. These four cats have been assigned to the genus Panthera because they can roar. Of these cats, the lion roars the most. It is beleived the roar serves to alert other lions of an individual's presence. Roaring choruses of several lions, or a whole pride, also take place. When a lion roars, it can do so with enough force to raise a cloud of dust. Roaring is made possible by a special two-piece hyoid bone in the throat. All of the non-roaring cats have a one-piece hyoid bone. It is said that a lion's roar can be heard 5 miles (8 km) away.

Life Cycle
Lion cubs are born blind, in litters of two to four. (Litters up to nine have been reported, but chances of more than four survivng are low, because the mother has just four teats.) They are typically about 1 foot (30.5 cm.) long and weigh about a pound (.45 Kg.). The cubs are completely covered with fur at birth, and may carry some spots while they are young. The eyes open in about 2-3 weeks, but they probably don't function for about a week after they open. The milk teeth appear about three weeks after birth, and the cubs are ready for solid food about a week later. Interestingly enough, wild lion mothers often do not wean their cubs until they are 2-3 months old.

The mother lion keeps her cubs by themselves for the first few weeks, but then introduces them to the pride. Once introduced, cubs may suckle any lactating female. This helps bond the cubs to the adults, and promotes survival. The mother carries the young cubs around by the scruff of their necks when it becomes necessary to move them.

Cub mortality is extremely high, with only one in eight surviving to adulthood. (Survival prospects are excellent after that.) There is a number of reasons for this. First of all, teething is painful, and weakens the cub so that many die during teething. Mother lions can become absorbed by some activity, and will forget for a while that they have cubs to care for. A new male taking over a pride will kill all of the cubs, so that the pride contains only cubs of his siring. Finally, cubs are at the bottom of the feeding hirearchy, and only get food when the adults are filled. Indeed, many cubs starve to death when food is scarce. An interesting exception to this is that male lions will frequently let the cubs share his food, while the females make the cubs wait their ...

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