Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Explaining Tsavo’s Maneless Man-Eaters

12.04.2002


The phrase "king of the jungle" invariably conjures up the image of a majestic, tawny cat with a fluffy mane framing its face. But in fact not all male lions have big hair. In Kenya’s Tsavo National Park--famed for the man-eating lions that reportedly terrorized railroad workers there in the late 1800s--a number of males lack manes altogether. Exactly why this should be the case--or why any lions should have manes, for that matter--has been difficult to explain. To that end, the results of a new study, published online today by the Canadian Journal of Zoology, could prove insightful.


Image: John Weinstein/Courtesy of the Field Museum



Over the years, researchers have put forth several social hypotheses aimed at explaining the main function of the mane in these group-living felines, ranging from intimidation (a big mane makes an animal look bigger) to physical protection for the head and neck areas from other lions to sex appeal. At the same time, however, manes are expensive: they offer unnecessary and perhaps harmful insulation to beasts in hot areas, they make the animals more conspicuous to both prey and competitors, and all that extra hair provides more stuff for thorns and brambles to latch onto.

To shed some light on the matter, Roland Kays of the New York State Museum in Albany and Bruce Patterson of the Field Museum in Chicago set out to test one of the social hypotheses: that mane size should vary as a function of female group size. According to this model, increased female group size should ratchet up the sexual selection pressure for long, flowing manes on males. Males with reduced or nonexistant manes, in contrast, should predominate in areas characterized by smaller female groups.


Observations of the Tsavo lions did not bear these predictions out. The researchers found that average female group size was large for the species. Yet most males were maneless or retained only remnant tufts on their head or neck. The more likely explanation for Tsavo’s maneless males, Kays and Patterson conclude, is that the blisteringly hot, arid, thornbrush-covered Tsavo habitat makes mane maintenance too costly.

The researchers further note that in contrast to savannah-dwelling populations, the prides observed in Tsavo consisted of a lone male defending a group of females. "How single, maneless males are able to hold relatively large groups of females remains unknown," they write. But it may be that these males have higher testosterone levels, which could account for both their "baldness" and their ability to single-handedly fend off groups of challengers.

Kate Wong | Scientific American

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>