Thursday, February 2, 2012

Going Mane-less is Cool!

Our lions, Jazz and Shazam often receive awes and compliments on their beautiful flowing manes.  While our standard colored lions, Aramis and  Kahn’s manes are not as full and majestic as our White Boys, researchers believe they know why some lions have more “mane” than others.  Do you know why some lions have full manes while others do not?

Then of course, there’s our mane-less Sabu, who sports no mane on his head, neck, or chest.  Why is Sabu mane-less while the other male lions sport full manes?

All great questions!  Let’s take a look at the lion’s mane.

We’ve all been told that the lions with the biggest “mane” gets the girls.  But researchers learned several years ago that temperature may actually have an impact on the majestic lion mane.  An American zoo study revealed that it’s cold temperatures that actually promotes the lion’s long and think mane, which of course is more appealing to the ladies.

In the April 2006 Journal of Mammalogy, the study showed that up to one-half of the length and fullness of the lion’s mane was attributed to temperature, rather than nutrition, social conditions, individual life history, or genes!

So, lions living in colder climates tend to have denser manes that help retard heat loss, while lions living in hot climates adapt by developing smaller, thinner manes.  The mane-climate conditions are not a result of natural selection, but rather they are a sign of a flexible trait that can be matched to their local conditions.

Okay, that makes sense as our Texas climates tend to be rather warm for our big cats, so they probably would like having less mane.  But there are also other advantages for lions to have less or no manes:  keeping a full mane groomed takes a lot of energy; wild lions with a full mane can easily be seen by prey (which probably explains why the lioness do all the hunting—just kidding!); moving through dense plant growth can be difficult and finally dense full manes can harbor parasites. Believe it or not, there are wild lions living in Tsavo, Kenya that are mane-less!

Did you know that lions have 11 mane fields?  They are:  forehead, throat, upper neck, sideburns, shoulders, sternum, chest, ribs, belly, dorsal crest, and elbows.  Have you ever noticed how much hair grows on these parts of the lion’s body before?  Normally, the development of the lion’s mane begins at the onset of puberty.  Cubs are born without manes as they normally develop around their 18th month or so and continue to grow until he reaches about five years of age. 

If you’d like to read the American Zoo study, you can find the article from the April 2006 Journal of Mammalogy here.

Lions once roamed over most of the world but are now limited to small parts of Africa and India. Only about 22,000-23,000 lions live in the wild today, down from more than 100,000 only 30 years ago. Their numbers have been decimated by human encroachment on their habitats and by conflicts with people.

Lions are currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species; and in West and Central Africa, the species is now classified as “Endangered.”

Lions have vanished from over 80 percent of their historic range and currently exist in 28 countries in Africa and one country in Asia (India). They are extinct in 26 countries. Only 7 countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe are believed to each contain more than 1,000 lions.

Now, to answer the question, why doesn’t’ Sabu have a mane?  When Sabu first arrive at his former home, the Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO), Sabu did indeed sport a beautiful mane.  The WAO elected to have Sabu neutered in case he was placed in an enclosure with a lioness.  All of the WAO lions were mane-less because they were neutered which resulted in a severe drop to their testosterone level.  Testosterone happens to be the key hormone that promotes lion body hair and mane growth.  So, our handsome Sabu will always remain mane-less.  Out of all the lions, Sabu is the coolest lion during the hot summer months!

We hope you enjoyed this blog posting on our lions’ manes and we look forward to your visit so you can see our lions for yourself!  Mane-less or not, they are all majestic in their own ways! 

Did you find this posting "funny, interesting, or cool?" If yes, please let us know by clicking on one of the reaction buttons below!

Oh, and as a reminder, don't forget to vote for us today in the Green Source DFW Environmental Awards! Amol and all of us from In-Sync Exotics says "Thank You!"

Later in the morning:

Great news!  We are listed as #2 for the Great Nonprofits Top Rated  Animal Welfare 2012 Nonprofits!  Big high-five tiger paws and mighty lion roars to everyone who wrote a review about In-Sync Exotics last month!! 

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