Sexual selection, temperature, and the lion's mane

Science. 2002 Aug 23;297(5585):1339-43. doi: 10.1126/science.1073257.


The mane of the African lion (Panthera leo) is a highly variable trait that reflects male condition and ambient temperature. We examined the consequences of this variation in a long-term study of lions in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Mane darkness indicates nutrition and testosterone and influences both female choice and male-male competition. Mane length signals fighting success and only appears to influence male-male assessment. Dark-maned males enjoy longer reproductive life-spans and higher offspring survival, but they suffer higher surface temperatures, abnormal sperm, and lower food intake during hot months of the year. Maned males are hotter than females, and males have lighter and/or shorter manes in hotter seasons, years, and habitats. This phenotypic plasticity suggests that the mane will respond to forecasted increases in ambient temperature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Climate
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Hair Color
  • Hair* / anatomy & histology
  • Hair* / growth & development
  • Hot Temperature
  • Lions / anatomy & histology*
  • Lions / physiology*
  • Male
  • Seasons
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Spermatozoa / abnormalities
  • Tanzania
  • Temperature
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Testosterone