African lions are the largest carnivorous animals found in Africa. They belong to the family of cats and are the largest ones in the group. Their body is around 1.4-2 m long with a 67-100 cm long tail. They are mammals who live in groups known as prides and are the only cats to display sexual dimorphism i.e., males and females can be easily distinguished by physical appearance and behavior.
Every animal has to adapt itself physically and behaviorally to survive in a particular environment. African lions have also struggled for several years to develop adaptations that have helped them to survive in the long run. African lion adaptations can be divided into two categories – Physical adaptations and Behavioral adaptations. Structural modifications in the body fall under physical adaptations while reactions of the animal in response to an external stimuli come under behavioral adaptations. So, let’s have a look at the adaptations these wild, African cats have developed to live on, in the savannas.
Physical Adaptations of African Lions
Large and sharp claws is one of the best adaptations of African lions. They use their sharp claws to kill their prey and tear meat from the prey’s body after it has been killed. Sharp claws are also used for defense and to display their strength and power to other animals. This also helps to keep predators and competitors away. Claws also provide the required grip to lions so that they can easily gain speed while running.
The most visible and striking adaption in an African lion is its sharp teeth. Like other carnivores, lions also rely on meat to meet its dietary requirements. Dull teeth are not capable for providing the grip to tear and chew meat, that is why, lions have sharp teeth so that they do not have any problem in eating their food. Another use of sharp teeth is defense. In case of a fight, they help lions to defend themselves and survive.
This is an adaptation which helps African lions to feel. Whiskers act as feelers and allows the animal to sense its surroundings and find its way out through tight spots. When the lion is looking out for a prey, these whiskers help it to sense the prey. Whiskers around the mouth also lets the lion sense whether it can fit into a particular area or not.
Tan Fur Color
African lions have tan colored fur on their body. This fur color is an adaptation to meet certain requirements. The tan color helps the lion to blend with the color of the surroundings which prevents it from being attacked by predators and competitors and also helps it sneak through while preying. If the color of the fur was different, then it would have been difficult for lions to survive attacks and find food for themselves.
Behavioral Adaptations of African Lions
This is a behavioral adaptation African lions have developed to communicate within their group. Lions hum when they are content and make a puffing sound when they approach each other with good intentions. Grunting is a sound they produce to keep in touch when they are moving from one area to the other. Finally comes the roaring, we are all very well familiar with. Females roar to protect their cubs from other animals or when they call other females to help defend intruders. Males roar to specify their location, display their strength and signal other animals to stay away from the pride.
African lions are nocturnal and prefer to hunt in the darkness of the night. They often hunt for food in groups and females do all the hunting. The strength of the group is generally determined by the amount of food the pride has. Another reason for hunting during the night is that lions get tired very quickly due to their muscular body. That is why they spend nearly 20 hours of a day resting. Hunting at night provides them relief from heat during the day time.
A pride has several mothers giving birth to young ones. Mothers take care of their cubs and keep them hidden from other animals for about eight weeks, as they cannot take care of themselves. Nursing mothers form groups and take care of other cubs as well in their mother’s absence. Mothers who give birth to only one cub willingly nurse other cubs because they produce enough milk to feed them. In tough situations, when the pride does not have enough food, mothers abandon their cubs and move ahead. This is done so that females remain within the pride and again give birth to young ones at times when the pride has enough food for all its members.
Like human beings, African lions teach their young ones ways to live and survive. By the time a cub is three months old, the mother teaches it ways to hunt for food. The young cub observes adult members of the family and learns to look for and hunt its prey. When a cub is one year old, it starts hunting, even though it does not have expertise in it. Cubs become an expert at hunting only after they are 2-3 years old. Once the cubs are 2 years old, the male cubs are forced to move out of the pride and find a new pride for themselves. Females are allowed to stay in the group to have their own cubs in the future.
African lion facts reveal that their population has reduced by 30% due to killing. It is feared to reduce further due to extreme climatic changes to which the species have not yet adapted with, however, the adaptations mentioned above have helped African lions to fight difficult situations in the past and survive in the land of savannas.