Why do lions have manes?
The mane of a male lion is its most distinctive feature.
The purpose of the mane has long been speculated upon.
One common theory is it protects the neck during fights with other males for dominance or mating rights.
New research has shown that this may give only part of the story.
What Do Thicker Manes Indicate?
When inspected closely, it was discovered that lions with thicker manes had significantly higher testosterone levels.
This suggests that the length and thickness of the mane is an indicator of health, strength, and virility.
This is further backed up by the fact that male lions with longer manes have been seen mating more often.
This suggests that the length of the mane, as well as testosterone levels, indicate a lion’s ability to compete for mates, leaving them better suited to perpetuate their genes.
The mane also serves as a signal to other lions that the bearer’s territory is occupied by a strong pride.
This discourages challenges from rival groups.
What’s The Use of a Lion’s Mane?
Further studies have also shown that the mane has a role to play in temperature regulation.
The mane helps to prevent heat loss by covering up the network of veins close to the skin.
This helps to ensure a constant core temperature.
In addition, it has been shown that the hair acts as a barrier to dirt and dust.
Thus allowing them to remain clean for longer periods of time by preventing the entry of harmful particles.
When viewing a male lion’s mane, it is not only its length or thickness that needs to be concerned with.
It is also the color of the mane that plays an important role in signaling dominance.
Generally, lions tend to have either brown or black manes.
However, lions that live within close proximity of the equator tend to have lighter colored manes.
It is suggested that this difference in coloration is due to differences in climate and the availability of prey.
At lower altitudes where it is hotter, the lighter colored manes help to reflect light and heat away from the skin.
In contrast, at higher latitudes where it is colder, the darker colored manes serve as an insulator, retaining warmth around the body.
The purpose of the lion’s mane is not only to help them in their fight for dominance or mating rights but also serves as a badge of health, strength, and virility.
It is also used for signaling an occupation of territory, discouraging challenges from other lion groups.
Furthermore, it has been shown that the mane acts as protection against heat loss during cold nights or when the lion is running.