Believing manes were a genetic characteristic, scientists have long used them to differentiate between different lion species.
As it turns out, mane length has more to do with climate than genetics.
A new study from the Chicago’s Field Museum has revealed that temperature is responsible for as much as 50 percent of the length and density of a lion’s mane.
Bruce Patterson studied lions at 17 different zoos and noted the area’s temperatures versus the length of hair around each animal’s neck.
“We studied captive lions housed comparably across 12 degrees of latitude in North America and correlated mane variation with climatic, life-history and husbandry variables.”
He found that lions from colder areas had longer hair strands than those in warmer climates.
“Lion manes represent a compromise between social benefits and ecological costs.” Says Patterson.
Growing a mane takes energy, so those lions that don’t require hair to keep warm simply grow smaller ones.