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African lions probably 2 distinct species

18/04/2011 20:08:39
safaris/2009/Lion_silhouette_wx

Lions in East and Southern Africa are larger, stronger and have bigger manes than their West African cousins.

Lions from west and central Africa have more in common with Asiatic lion

April 2011: There is a remarkable difference between the lions of west and central Africa compared to those in the east and south of the continent, according to new research. 

The study suggests that lions from west and central Africa are genetically different from lions in east and southern Africa. The researchers analysed a region on the mitochondrial DNA of lions from across Africa and India, including sequences from extinct lions such as the Atlas lions in Morocco.

Surprisingly, lions from West and Central Africa seemed to be more related to lions from the Asiatic subspecies than to their counterparts in East and Southern Africa. Previous research has already suggested that lions in West and Central Africa are smaller in size and weight, have smaller manes, live in smaller groups, eat smaller prey and may also differ in the shape of their skull, compared to their counterparts in east and southern Africa. However, this research was not backed by conclusive scientific evidence. The present research findings show that the difference is also reflected in the genetic makeup of the lions.

DIFFERENCES: Lions in West and Central Africa
are smaller in size and weight and have smaller
manes.

The distinction between lions from the two areas of Africa can partially be explained by the location of natural structures that may form barriers for lion dispersal. These structures include the Central African rainforest and the Rift Valley, which stretches from Ethiopia to Tanzania and from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Mozambique.

Another aspect explaining the unique genetic position of the West and Central African lion is the climatological history of this part of the continent.

It is hypothesised that a local extinction occurred, following periods of severe drought 18,000-40,000 years ago. During this period, lions continuously ranged deep into Asia and it is likely that conditions in the Middle East were still sufficiently favourable to sustain lion populations. The data suggests that West and Central Africa was recolonised by lions from areas close to India, which explains the close genetic relationship between lions from these two areas.

West African lions highly endangered
There are thought to be about 1,700 lions left in West and Central Africa, which is less than ten per cent of the total estimated lion population in Africa. Numbers are still declining. They are under severe threat due to the fragmentation or even destruction of their natural savannah habitat, the depletion of prey and retaliatory killing by livestock owners.

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Posted by: stanley arouty | 22 Apr 2011 08:59:07

african lions probably 2 distinct species

it would appear that as a result of this new discovery of the very close genetic relationship to asiatic lions such as the lions in the Gir forest. it would seem that this would present an ideal opportunity to introduce fresh genetic diversity into the limited gene pool that is currently shared by these asiatic lions.

Posted by: stanley arouty | 22 Apr 2011 08:58:45

Species??

Do you mean subspecies? because even today the definition of species is subject to discussion, don't forget that the conditions of west and east africa are very different. Size of mane can be affected by the thickness of vegetation, since mane is constantly getting snagged in leaves and torns, size might have to do with the availability of prey. It doesn't mean that they are genetically different. In west africa herds of ungulates are smaller, there are less species of prey as well.
And even if there is genetycal differences, people should not forget that living beans are under constant transformation, this is called evolution by some, that's how new species are formed, so at what point you can say that is a new species? or subspecies? what we might be seen is something even more interesting, than a new species, but the formation of different types of Lion.
Now if you consider a different species, does that mean that we should not breed them with the southern lions? or should not allow them to meet in natural conditions? should we breed the western lions with asian lions?
Finally to finish this comment, I would say that we shoud find a way to allow lions, and other wild animals to be able to live and move among us, either via fauna corridors, or some other solution, so that the natural means of distribution and diferenciation of species can carry on. Since global warming is under way, I think is important if animals can colonize other areas, finding new suitable areas so they don't go extinct.
Luis

Posted by: Luiskefalonia | 21 Apr 2011 14:26:37

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