What are some mind blowing facts from the animal kingdom?

Answer by Rory Young:

The Queen of the Jungle

Photo: Chris Souchon

No, not Simba. More like Suzie actually. Or maybe somewhere in between?

This following picture clearly shows that there is no male genitalia and what appears to be a vagina can be seen.

Photo: Chris Souchon

"Maned females" have been recorded before in Botswana. However, there appears to be no record of them ever producing cubs.

On the other hand there are, unbelievably, stories of female lions turning into males..

The circus owner and lion trainer Terrell Jacobs exhibited a well-known lioness called Sheba. She became really famous when she developed a mane.

Terrell Jacobs with Sheba

In another case a fifteen year-old white lioness at the Philadelphia Zoo, called Vinkel, became menopausal and developed a mane.

Most importantly from a scientific perspective, George Schaller, the world's foremost ethologist, discovered that lions he had recorded as females as cubs grew up to be males.

Furthermore maneless males such as the one pictured below in Tsavo East National Park are not rare at all.

Sequential hermaphroditism is not known to exist among mammals and therefore these animals must have either started out as males and ended up as males or started as females and ended as females. So what is going on?

The reason is most likely hormonal of course. In the case of male lions lacking manes it is probably due to low levels in testosterone. This can be evidenced because when a male is castrated it will fail to develop a mane.

Now, how do we explain Simba-Suzie then? "She" has a mane but clearly no testicles.. Or does she? What if her/his testicles are not properly developed but there all the same?  Take a look at the following picture.

Photo: Chris Souchon

Simbia-Suzie likes girls. So is this clearly showing that she is actually a male?

Well, no homosexual behaviour is very common among lions.Eight percent of male mountings are on other males. This is not dominance behaviour either. The males will bond for a period during which they "cuddle" and reverse roles. Females are well known to bond in captivity.

There is another possible reason. Biologist Luke Hunter, President of the big cat conservation organisation Panthera believes that it may be caused by disruption to the fetus, either due to abberant genetic contribution from the sperm or during the fetus was exposed to high levels of androgens such as testosterone during development.

This would leave a female "masculinized". In other words, instead of a maneless male with low levels of testosterone we have a maned-female with high levels of testosterone.

Whatever the reason, it is clearly not certain how or why exactly maned females occur and only proper study will tell whether Suzie is actually Simba or Simba is actualy Suzie; although it seems most likely that Simba is Suzie – and Suzie prefers other Suzies to Simbas.

View Answer on Quora

2 thoughts on “What are some mind blowing facts from the animal kingdom?

  1. That was indeed mind blowing!
    I have never heard of this situation in lions but now I will be caught staring at the genitals of every lion I see to compare it with the presence or not of a mane.

    ~Sofia.

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