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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2015

Why Do Lions Have Manes in a Hot Place Like Afica?

by  Digger Doug


Dear Digger Doug,

Why did God make lions with thick manes when they
live in Africa which is a hot place?
—Annie, Fayetteville, NC


Dear Annie,

I have always loved how beautiful and majestic male lions look with their furry manes. But you might find it interesting to know that not all male lions have big manes. Most of the ones you see in pictures do, but there is a group of lions in Tsavo, Kenya (a hot country in Africa) where the male lions do not have manes. These lions do not seem to live any longer or better than the ones with big manes. So it looks like a lion’s mane does not hurt him very much in the wild. Let’s think about why that is. First, when God made lions on day six of Creation, there probably was no “Africa.” The world was most likely a very different place than it is now. At that time, lions had the information in their genes to have long manes, or not to have manes at all. Over the years, some groups of lions kept their manes and some groups lost theirs. Second, many animals over the years have gone extinct, but the lion is still with us. That means that the lion is good at surviving. The extra heat that the mane of a lion causes must not be too serious, otherwise lions would have gone extinct. What is a lion’s mane good for? We don’t know exactly, but in some studies, it seems that female lions are more attracted to male lions with dark manes. And other male lions are less likely to try to fight a lion with a long mane. So, it looks like a male lion with a long, dark mane gets to stay out of fights more often, and is more attractive to females than lions with shorter, lighter manes. The most important thing is to keep “the mane thing the mane thing.” (Sorry, just a little bit of lion humor. I’m roaring with laughter, taking pride in my jokes.)

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