Cape Lion

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Mammals

iCape Lion

Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: P. leo
Subspecies: P. l. melanochaitus
Trinomial name
Panthera leo melanochaitus
Ch. H. Smith, 1842

The Cape Lion Panthera leo melanochaitus is an extinct subspecies of lion.

Cape "black-maned" Lions ranged along the Cape of Africa on the southern tip of the continent. The Cape Lion was not the only subspecies living in South Africa, and its exact range is unclear. Its stronghold was Cape Province, in the area around Cape Town. The last Cape Lion seen in the province was killed in 1858.

Cape Lions were similar in size to African Lions but slightly lighter. The largest Cape lions weighed around 270 kg (594 lbs), while the largest African lions weigh about 310 kg (682 lbs).

As with the Barbary lion, several people and institutions claim to have Cape lions. In 2000, possible specimens were found in captivity in Russia and brought to South Africa for breeding. There is much confusion between Cape lions and other dark-coloured long-maned captive lions. Lions in captivity today have been bred and cross-bred from lions captured in Africa long ago, with examples from all of these 'subspecies'. Mixed together, hybridised, most of today's captive lions have a 'soup' of genes from many different lions.

Early authors justified ‘‘distinct’’ subspecific status of the Cape lion on believe that the seemingly fixed external morphology of the Cape lions (male’s huge mane extending behind shoulders and covering belly, and the distinctive black tips to the lion's ears). However, nowadays it is known that various extrinsic factors, including the ambient temperature, influence the colour and size of a lion’s mane. Results of mitochondrial DNA research published in 2006 do not support the ‘‘distinctness’’ of the Cape lion. It now seems probable that the Cape lion was only the southernmost population of the extant southern African lion.

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