|Masai lion at Ngorongoro|
|P. l. nubica
The Masai lion was initially described as being less cobby with longer legs and less curved backs than other lion subspecies. Males have moderate tufts of hair on the knee joint, and their manes are not full but look like combed backwards.
Male East African lions are generally 2.5–3.0 metres (8.2–9.8 feet) long including the tail. Lionesses are generally smaller, at only 2.3–2.6 metres (7.5–8.5 feet). In weight, males are generally 145–205 kg (320–450 pounds), and females are 100–165 kg (220–360 pounds). Lions, male or female, have a shoulder height of 0.9–1.10 metres (3.0–3.6 feet).
Masai lions are known for a great range of mane variation among males. Males with the heaviest manes are usually from the highlands, like the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, whereas lions from the lowlands of eastern and northern Kenya, especially around Tsavo, often have scanty manes or are even completely maneless. In addition, mane development is also related to the age. A recent study revealed, that relatively old males, which are already past their breeding prime, carry usually the most extensive manes.
Lions from the Serengeti highlands have often very big manes
Mating lions at Masai Mara
Mature lion male from Amboseli National Park with intermediate mane development
Lion from Samburu National Reserve, Kenya
Tsavo lions with scanty manes
The famous Tsavo Man-Eaters
Distribution and habitat
Masai lions were first described on the basis of observations in northern Uganda, near Kavirondo and in southern Kenya, as well as near Lake Manyara, around Mount Kilimanjaro and in the Tanga Region.
The German zoologist Neumann observed lions in Eastern Africa, and proposed the trinomen Felis leo massaica in 1900 based on morphological differences compared with lions from Somalia. His type specimens consist of one male killed near Kibaya, and one female killed at the Gurui River. A decade later, the Swedish zoologist Lönnberg described two lion specimen from the environs of Mount Kilimanjaro under the name of Felis leo sabakiensis that were killed during a Swedish zoological expedition to East Africa. In 1914, the American zoologist Heller described the Abyssinian lion under the name Felis leo roosevelti on the basis of a male lion presented to President Roosevelt allegedly from the vicinity of Addis Abeba. In 1939, the American zoologist Allen recognized the trinomen Felis leo massaica as valid, and subordinated F. l. sabakiensis and F. l. roosevelti to this subspecies. Pocock subordinated lions to the genus Panthera in 1930 when he wrote about Asian lions. Now all lions from eastern and northeastern Africa are often considered to be synoym to P. l. nubica, which has been described in 1843 by Blainville, based on a specimen of unknown origin.
However, the systematics of lions are still under debate. In the 1960ies, Ellerman and Morrison-Scott recognized just two lion subspecies, namely the Asiatic P. l. persica and the African P. l. leo, known as the Barbary lion at the time. Until 2005, various authors recognized between seven and 10 African lion subspecies. Others followed the classification proposed by Ellerman and Morrison-Scott.
- Haas, S. K., Hayssen, V., Krausman, P. R. (2005). Panthera leo. Mammalian Species (762): 1–11.
- Allen, G. M. (1939). A Checklist of African Mammals. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 83: 1–763.
- Neumann, O. (1900). Die von mir in den Jahren 1892–95 in Ost- und Central-Afrika, speciell in den Massai-Ländern und den Ländern am Victoria Nyansa gesammelten und beobachteten Säugethiere. Zoologische Jahrbücher. Abtheilung für Systematik, Geographie und Biologie der Thiere 13 (VI): 529–562.
- Greg Borzo: Groundbreaking study by Field Museum scientists explains mane variation in lions, Innovations Report 2006
- Lönnberg, E. (1910). Mammals. In: Sjöstedt, Y. (ed.) Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse der Schwedischen Zoologischen Expedition nach dem Kilimandjaro, dem Meru und den umgebenden Massaisteppen Deutsch-Ostafrikas 1905-1906. Volume 1. Königlich schwedische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Uppsala.
- Heller, E. 1914. New races of carnivores and baboons from equatorial Africa and Abyssinia. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 61(19): 1–12.
- Pocock, R. I. (1930). The lions of Asia. Journal of the Bombay Natural Historical Society 34: 638–665.
- Ellerman, J. R., and T. C. S. Morrison-Scott. (1966). Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian Mammals 1758 to 1946. Second edition. British Museum (Natural History), London.
- Hemmer, H. (1974). Untersuchungen zur Stammesgeschichte der Pantherkatzen (Pantherinae). III. Zur Artgeschichte des Löwen Panthera (Panthera) leo (Linnaeus 1758). Veröffentlichungen der Zoologischen Staatssammlung München, 17: 167–280.
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 546. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Meester, J., Setzer, H. W. (1977). The mammals of Africa. An identification manual. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.
- O’Brien, S. J., Martenson, J. S., Packer, C., Herbst, L., de Vos, V., Joslin, P., Ott-Joslin, J., Wildt, D. E. and Bush, M. (1987). "Biochemical genetic variation in geographic isolates of African and Asiatic lions". National Geographic Research 3 (1): 114–124.
- Barnett, R., Yamaguchi, N., Barnes, I., Cooper, A. (2006). The origin, current diversity and future conservation of the modern lion (Panthera leo). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 273 (1598): 2119–2125. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3555 PMID 16901830
- Media related to Panthera leo nubica at Wikimedia Commons