Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Scientists study lion mane variability


CHICAGO, IL, United States (UPI) -- U.S. zoologists say they have dispelled several longstanding misconceptions about mane variability among wild lions in the first such study of its type.

The nearly 7-year scientific assessment by researchers from Chicago`s Field Museum of Natural History found wild lions generally develop manes in accordance with local climate regimes. In Equatorial East Africa, climate is determined by elevation, thus lions with the largest manes occur at the upper limit of their altitudinal range, while similar-age males in the lowest and warmest environments typically have modest or scanty manes.

But, paradoxically, other lions in low and warm regions appear to acquire respectable manes, contrary to most popular and scientific accounts of the lions from Africa`s Tsavo region.

'We knew about the climate/elevation correlation since we were the first to publish those preliminary results in GEO 2001, but this new development really threw us for a loop,' said Tom Gnoske, senior author of the paper. 'However, once we analyzed all of the statistical data we found a very strong correlation linking increased age and continued mane development -- a significant variable ignored by all previous authors'

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