Lion Evolution and Subspecies
The oldest fossil remains of the Lion that we have are approximately 3.5 million years old. The do give us some information though about how the various species of felines have changed and diversified throughout time. Both the Tiger and the Jaguar are very closely related to the Lion. It is believed that the Lion moved into Europe about 700,000 years ago. What is often referred to as the Cave Lion was introduced approximately 300,000 years ago.
It is hard to believe that just 10,000 years ago the Lion was considered to be the most populated animal in the world with only humans having higher numbers. During that period of time with the last glaciation they died out in the area of Northern Eurasia.
What is very interesting about the evolution of the Lion is the mane. There are numerous early cave drawings as well as pictures but none of them feature the male with the mane. However, they do show a pride with what appears to be a larger and dominant male. Is it possible that these drawings and pictures tell the story of the mane not being there during that period of time?
If that is the case, then what occurred for the male to develop them mane? Another very important question is why did it only evolve for the males instead of all of them? This often leads many to believe that the situation is due to a genetic change and that the gene is one that only the males offer.
There was once believed to be 12 subspecies of the Lion. However, due to the technology we have now for DNA testing we have identified there are only 8 of them. There are several different factors that determine how these Lions are categorized. That includes the size and development of the mane, their overall size, and where they are distributed.
The Asiatic Lion is often referred to as the Indian Lion or Persian Lion. They used to live in the areas of Turkey and Bangladesh. There are only about 300 them that remain and they are centralized in the Gir Forest of India.
The Barbary Lion used to be found in Morocco and Egypt. They are believed to be a very large Lion subspecies. They are no longer living in the wild though and only a few hundred of them remain in captivity.
The West African Lion lives in the areas of Nigeria and Senegal. It isn’t known how many of them remain in the wild today. There is also limited information about the Northeast Congo Lion which is found in that area.
The Masai Lion is also referred to as the East African Lion. It ranges from Ethiopia to the areas of Kenya and Tanzania. You will find the Katanga Lion living in the areas of Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Kruger National Park is the home of the Transvaal Lion. You will find the Tsavo Lion living in the area of East Africa. They are mainly found in Kenya as well as the protected Tsavo National Park.
One subspecies of the Lion that continues to be conflicted is the Cape Lion. They have been living only in captivity since 1860. Many experts though believe that this one shouldn’t be categorized as a subspecies based on the mitochondrial DNA.
All of the Lions are in danger of becoming extinct though regardless of which of the subspecies they belong to. That is why it is so important for us to learn all we can about them and their habitat. By doing so we can also strive to implement positive movements that can encourage an increase in their numbers.