STL Science Center

STL Science Center

01 April 2017

Subspecies of Lions

The list of subspecies attributed to lions actually encompasses some of the fossil species of lion that we are going to discuss this week. Rather than discuss the three distinct groups of cave lion separately (Panthera leo spelaea, P. leo fossilis, and P. leo atrox), we will lump the three species together in the sense that we will discuss them as individual populations distributed globally and officially labeled as subspecies of the extant species of lion. "Cave lion", used as a generalized term, refers to European (P. leo fossilis), Eurasian (Panthera leo spelaea), and North American or American Lion (P. leo atrox) populations of large carnivorous felids of the Pleistocene. These animals were not excessively morphologically disparate from extant lions, but distinctions can be seen and observed between the extant and the extinct. These small distinctions add up to larger lions than the extant species, as seen below.
©Roman Uchytel

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