Male lions are known for their fluffy manes which appear during sexual maturation between a year and a half and two years old. This iconic fluff typically makes it easy to determine the male among a pride. Females, by contrast, are typically a light, sleeker tan. However, the beauty of nature is never so simple. Zuri, an 18-year-old lioness at Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center in Kansas, has recently grown herself a magnificent, fluffy mane. While scientists are a bit unsure of the reason behind her new look, she's not the only lioness to have acquired this characteristic.
Topeka's three-lion pride lost its male lion Avus in October 2020. Zuri was left behind with another female. She is the dominant personality, according to her keepers. Since the loss of Avus, keepers noticed the fluffy mane developing on Zuri. It is shorter and sparser than a full-grown male's mane. Despite this coincidental timeline, “I don’t think there's really any kind of evolutionary [reason for this], either lack of males or too much competition with other females or anything like that…I think it’s just a random event,” says Kris Everatt, a scientist at the conservation organization Panthera.
While the cause of Zuri's remarkable hair growth is unknown, it is not an unprecedented event. Five female lions in Botswana showed similar characteristics in one report. Another 18-year-old lioness named Bridget also sprouted a tufty mane at the Oklahoma City Zoo in 2017. In this case, a tumor was discovered on Bridget's adrenal gland. The tumor triggered raised levels of cortisol and androstenedione, likely causing the mane growth. It's possible that Zuri's advanced age has perhaps shifted her hormone levels, creating a similar effect. Whatever the cause, Zuri is certainly rocking her new look.
Zuri, the 18-year-old lioness at Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center in Kansas, has grown herself a magnificent, fluffy mane.
h/t: [IFL Science]
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