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Barbary or Atlas lions

Netherlands peter Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-27-2017, 05:01 AM by peter )

a - INTRODUCTION

I'm sure many of you have seen this splendid photograph before:


*This image is copyright of its original author


It was discussed at many forums over the years. Most thought the photograph had been taken before the First World War. Not quite true. This lion was photographed in 1925.

It surely had to be one of the very last wild Barbary lions, many thought. Also not true. Although they had all but vanished between 1890-1910, Barbary or Atlas lions might have survived in isolated spots in Morocco and Algeria until the late fifties or even early sixties of the last century! It's very likely that the French-Algerian conflict was the nail in their coffin.   

There are many myths about these lions. For starters, I advice to read this article published a few years ago (Black et al, 2013). A very interesting read. Yamaguchi also contributed:  

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0060174
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Netherlands peter Offline
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b - PHOTOGRAPHS

Before discussing a few things of interest, I propose to have a look at a number of photographs. Try to get an impression.

b1 - Morocco (winter)


*This image is copyright of its original author
 

b2 - Captive (subadult?) lioness:


*This image is copyright of its original author



b3 - Berbers and subadult lioness (1904):


*This image is copyright of its original author


b4 - Subadult male:


*This image is copyright of its original author


b5 - Subadult female, Algeria:


*This image is copyright of its original author


b6 - Subadult male, London Zoo (1896):


*This image is copyright of its original author


b7 - Captive adult male, Algeria (1902):


*This image is copyright of its original author


b8 - Captive adult male, Bronx Zoo, New York City (1911):


*This image is copyright of its original author


b9 - Close-up of an adult male (<1900):


*This image is copyright of its original author
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Malaysia johnny rex Offline
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What subspecies of lion possesses the largest lion skull ever, @peter ? Do you know the measurements of maximum skull size of Southern lions and those of Northern part of Africa?
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Netherlands peter Offline
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(02-16-2017, 11:12 AM)johnny rex Wrote: What subspecies of lion possesses the largest lion skull ever, @peter ? Do you know the measurements of maximum skull size of Southern lions and those of Northern part of Africa?

I don't think there's much to choose between southern and northern Africa in this respect, Johnny. Talking absolutes here.

I remember a paper about the difference in brain size between Bali tigresses and male Kruger lions, in which it was stated that the Krugers averaged no less than 380 mm. in greatest total skull length. I also remember a table of J.H. Mazak with skull measurements. The table, if correct, was based on measurements made by the man who inspired him (V. Mazak). In that table, male lions from southern Africa averaged 369-370 mm. in greatest total length, whereas 3 male skulls from northern Africa averaged 372 mm. in greatest total length. 

A close call, so it seems. In relatives, however, the difference between northern and southern Africa is remarkable.

Atlas lions, based on everything I have and saw, seemed to be average-sized, if not shortish, whereas those from the southern part of Africa more or less compare to wild Amur tigers. Some weeks ago, in the tiger extinction thread, I posted a table with information on the actual standing height at the shoulder of male lions and tigers from the Paris Zoo ('Jardin des Plantes') from the 1896 or thereabout. I assumed the tigers were from Vietnam (a French colony in those days), whereas the lions could have been from northern Africa (where France also had colonies). The male lions averaged just over 3 feet at the top of the shoulder. Not as tall as an average captive male, that is to say.

All in all, I'd say that lions from southern Africa are large in every way, whereas the now extinct Atlas lions were smaller. In spite of that, they more or less compared in greatest total skull length. This means that Atlas lions had relatively larger skulls. They also seemed to be more robust.

Cape lions, also extinct, might have compared to Atlas lions in terms of body length and robustness, but they, like the Caspian tiger, could have had shorter, more bulldog-like, skulls. I saw a few of them in the former Zoological Museum of Amsterdam.

Based on I skulls I measured, I concluded that southern Africa produced the longest skulls, whereas the most robust were from the southeast, the southwest and central parts of Africa. I saw some pictures of Congo lions in museums in Belgium Congo lions. A friend from Belgium (Congo used to be a colony from Belgium) also has a few pictures. I saw this picture on 'Africa Hunting'. Not much different from the pictures I saw:


*This image is copyright of its original author


I'll try to find the table of J.H. Mazak.
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Italy Ngala Offline
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@peter 

Peter, you think that in the remote regions of southern Algeria and Libya, someone Barbary lions could be survived? There are real possibilities?

I've found that right in the south of Algeria few years ago, through genetic analysis of scat, was found the presence of leopards, never documented before.

Surely, for the lion it's more difficult go unobserved. So, there are real possibilities that they have survived with a relict population? For example, like the Ethiopian lion from Bale Mountains in Ethiopia, which has been documented only in the past few years, if i'm not wrong.
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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Netherlands peter Offline
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( This post was last modified: 02-22-2017, 07:36 AM by peter )

I was as surprised as you were about the remark on Atlas lions surviving until the late fifties or early sixties of the last century, Ngala. I thought the lions had all but disappeared just before the Second World War. If a few would have survived, the War in northern Africa (referring to Rommel and Monty) would have sealed their fate. However. The writers of the article discovered that some lions did survive the war. Most unfortunately, the second war on their territory, this time between Algeria and France, was the nail on their coffin. The reason was habitat destruction.

Although I, like you, still hope that some lions made it until today, chances are they did not. The desert is a very secretive place, but it doesn't quite offer the protection of extended forests, mountains or a combination of mountains and forests. Java tigers, Bali tigers and Caspian tigers also disappeared in that period. Bali tigers are definitely gone forever, but there still are rumours about Java and the Caspian region. Although it's very unlikely that tigers survived until today, it isn't completely impossible. On the other hand. Big felines need a lot of room as well as large prey animals. If some would have survived, traces would have been found. Humans, most unfortunately, are very good at extinctions.

Leopards often survive attempts to finish them. One reason is they are much smaller than lions and tigers. Another is they don't need large animals and forests to survive. Furthermore, they are not considered as a threat everywhere. People fear them, but leopards can adjust their behaviour. In regions where they are on their way out, they avoid humans and can remain undetected for years. In densely populated regions, like Mumbai, they co-exist with humans. They take small animals and dogs, but stay away from humans. Those ignoring the treaty are shot or captured, which will result in a wild, but domesticated, feline. More adaptable, they are. They're very good at it.
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Netherlands peter Offline
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( This post was last modified: 02-22-2017, 08:43 AM by peter )

c - Size

c1 - Standing height at the shoulder

This is a table posted some years ago at the former Animal Versus Animal forum of Yuku. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the poster. The table shows the height at the top of the shoulder of 3 male lions and two lionesses in the Paris Zoo ('Jardin des Plantes'). The animals were standing when they were measured.

Although I'm not sure, I think the lions could be from the colonies of France in northern Africa at that time. This means the lions could have been Atlas lions. The average height at the shoulder of the 3 males is just over 3 feet:  


*This image is copyright of its original author


c2 - Skull length

This is the table mentioned in a previous post about the skull size of lions. The table was published not so long a go by J.H. Mazak, but the skulls, if not mistaken, were measured by the man who inspired him, V. Mazak.

GLS is greatest total skull length, CBL is condylobasal length and RB is rostral breadth:


*This image is copyright of its original author
  

The table shows that skulls from northern Africa are a tad longer than those from southern Africa. In condylobasal length, a more reliable indicator of skull size, the difference is more pronounced (just over 10 mm.). The rostrum in the northern African skulls also is wider. In this respect, Atlas lions more or less compare to Amur tigers. As rostrum width could be related to upper canine length (and width) in tigers, chances are (not sure) that lions are not that different in this respect. This means that Atlas lions could have had large upper canines.     

The problem is that the sample for northern Africa is very small (3 male skulls and 2 female skulls only). Although we can't use the table to jump to conclusions, it is remarkable that Atlas lions had large and robust skulls for their size.
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Switzerland Spalea Offline
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@peter :

About #6 and #7: If the Atlas lions survived for so long time, then their preys (being big animals) would have survived too. In an environment like the desert and arid regions it is quite impossible without being spotted by humans, as you told desert doesn't offer protection like forest and mountains do. I believe the last recensed Atlas lion died in 1935 in Morocco.

But I wanted to point on this: the last Atlas lions surviving among a declining wild fauna (not including big preys like in african savannah), some rumours tending to believe in existence of a big subspecie of lion are quite fanciful, I think. Why would the Atlas lions be bigger than the other subspecies ? Their potential preys ? Wild goats, scarce antelopes and gazelles... Being an apex predator, they would have lived in a rich mega fauna whose existence is incompatible since the colonization, the french colonization in this particular case... Thus quite impossible since at last two centuries. Thus the big Atlas lions - in dimensions - wouldn't have survived beyond the second half of the XIXth century.

When we read all the Tartarin's and other braggarts' stories, only focused by the trophies, the idea of fauna protection wasn't born.
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Italy Ngala Offline
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( This post was last modified: 03-03-2017, 04:01 PM by Ngala )

Male Barbary lion from Biskra, northern Algeria. Unfortunately, i don't find the year, but i think that is from the beginning of '900, or perhaps older.


*This image is copyright of its original author

Source: https://www.delcampe.net/
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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Japan Betty Offline
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( This post was last modified: 05-18-2017, 04:51 PM by Betty )


*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author






*This image is copyright of its original author



*This image is copyright of its original author










Studies-in-the-Art-Anatomy-of-Animals.
http://etsetoninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Studies-in-the-Art-Anatomy-of-Animals.pdf
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India brotherbear Offline
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( This post was last modified: 05-18-2017, 07:21 PM by brotherbear )

The Barbary Lion.... planetearthscienceart.blogspot.com/2010/07/africas-only-bear-brief-natural-history.html


Friday, July 9, 2010
The Mystery of the Atlas Bear


In the region of Northwestern Africa known as the Maghreb, north of the Sahara Desert and high up in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, there are hidden an array of superb natural treasures with very unique and surprising history...

The climate of the Maghreb is varied but more or less parallels the natural conditions found on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea – a stark, rocky, and arid wilderness of high, dry plains, open, mixed woodlands, and alpine expanses. Remarkably, at the narrowest point in the Strait of Gibraltar, North Africa is separated from Spain by only 7.7 nautical miles of seawater (14.24 km). And thus, to no marginal extent –and perhaps expectedly- North Africa’s biological composition is characterized by an exceptional mixture of both African and European floras and faunas.


These mountains were once the haunt of the regal Barbary Lion (Panthera leo leo), a great cat of superlative splendor, which disappeared from the continent sometime during the course of the early to mid 20th century. A smaller pantherine counterpart of this region –the secretive Barbary Leopard (Panthera pardus panthera) - managed to cling precariously to existence for some decades longer than the lion, and has itself disappeared perhaps only within this last ten years or so. There is still some hope that these incredible cats lurk like ghosts in the far reaches of the mountains, but they have not been seen or otherwise detected for a number of years. Many naturalists have concluded that the Atlas Mountains are now absent of leopards and lions.

There was another animal in these mountains -seemingly out of place for its kind- which disappeared from northern African probably about one century before the lion and the leopard. The creature was unusual for several reasons, the first reason was that it was a bear –the only native kind naturally present on the vast African continent within recent history, and the second, that it may have in fact been a distinct species apart from the ones we are now familiar with.
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Brazil Matias Offline
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(01-23-2017, 08:25 PM)peter Wrote: a - INTRODUCTION

I'm sure many of you have seen this splendid photograph before:


*This image is copyright of its original author


It was discussed at many forums over the years. Most thought the photograph had been taken before the First World War. Not quite true. This lion was photographed in 1925.

It surely had to be one of the very last wild Barbary lions, many thought. Also not true. Although they had all but vanished between 1890-1910, Barbary or Atlas lions might have survived in isolated spots in Morocco and Algeria until the late fifties or even early sixties of the last century! It's very likely that the French-Algerian conflict was the nail in their coffin.   

There are many myths about these lions. For starters, I advice to read this article published a few years ago (Black et al, 2013). A very interesting read. Yamaguchi also contributed:  

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0060174


Although not aware that someone questioned the authenticity of this photograph, it always seemed to me something "mounted". Although there is a logic behind the capture of this image, they say: it was made by a photographer hired by the airline to document the landscape, promoting the inauguration of the Casablanca-Dakar flight. Let's look at some points: the lion's footprints in the sand, straight, perfectly perceptible, contrast with other marks in the sand that seem to me to be human work, a regular and uniform pattern of movement in the sand (vegetable branches!); The alignment of the footprints does not correspond to the positioning of the lion in front of the photograph, being positioned laterally; The lion's tail is completely retracted, at least for the sound of the engine, it would be alert and alert lion does not have that kind of posture (his static / motionless figure, looking forward in front of a low-flying air vehicle is well unusual); The shadow of the lion: underneath there seems to be a support or something concrete that does not belong to the animal; It is also noted that the muzzle is very prominent and straight; At this distance the image was very perfect from the angle of the photograph, it seems to me that it was taken from the right side of the plane, so the lion was facing the plane and therefore the lion would never be static! Ignoring the fact of the plane! All the lions that are sighted by airplanes perceive their presence and react to this aerial object. It looks like a cardboard lion or carved in wood.
 
 
It's just observations of a photograph that can turn out to be a scam, are questionings and who knows, other wildfact members also think this image is too good to be true. It is not because it has been almost 100 years that it can not be merely the object of a marketing campaign. "Imagine the slogam of the airline: travel with us and also see a lion".
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Brazil Matias Offline
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                                                                                     Very Interesting

 
 
The establishment of veracity criteria in the Barbary Lions observation narratives is making the mistake. If the initial premise is false, then the rest is. In the case of the Barbary Lion, none of the 32 sightings was formally accepted. I do not believe that no matter how logical a probabilistic study can determine a correct conclusion beforehand, the truth of a series of observations can not be the direct result of a logical and putative reasoning. Logical, mathematical, and statistical principles can not determine qualitative methods of sightings. Reliability, authenticity and truthfulness can not be measured scientifically. Although co-participant and interested, this study does not support or suggest that Barbary Lions may have survived until the late 1950s or early 1960s, as advocated by Mr. Simon Black. Due to the fragility and utter lack of authenticity of the 32 sightings the "Sightings Teory" can not withstand any evidence of Barbary Lions after the 1930s.

Note: Along with Nobuyuki Yamaguchi Simon Black is reference in the study of Barbary Lions. Both are considered the greatest references in the subject. It is not because I mention it in the paragraph above that I stop acknowledging to appreciate your ideas and your contributions. I also believe that after 20 years of dedication in the study of the Barbary Lions he has developed a "feeling" and "intuition" that leads him to believe, even though he can not prove, that his survival was slow to disappear.
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Netherlands peter Offline
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MATIAS

Informative posts. I copied the article, as it is an interesting attempt to get to an educated opinion on the validity of sightings and reports on extinct animals.  

At to the sightings and the article. In the previous century, many species and subspecies disappeared. Big cats were included. The Barbary or Atlas lion disappeared in the twenties or thirties of the last century. Not much later, the Caspian tiger was declared extinct. In the eighties of the last century, the Java tiger followed. Same for the Chinese tiger. 

Are they really gone?

The Barbary lion is no more, but I'm not sure about the Caspian tiger. Same for the Javan and the Chinese tiger. In the city where I live, friends from the eastern part of Turkey told me that tigers were hunted in that part of Turkey not so long ago. I can't ask them for some evidence, as this could have consequences. I also posted information about Caspian tigers seen in Afghanistan and other parts of central Asia. One of our best posters, Phatio, is convinced that Java still has tigers. He has been in the eastern part of Java himself and posted about his quest. And what about China? in 2011, biologists were sure that there were tigers at the borders of Sichuan, Shaanxi and, possibly, Hunan. The region where they allegedly live, however, is not too far from the megacity of Chongquing. This region is promising for those interested in mining. Why is it that we haven't heard anything about tigers in that region for 6 years?  

As you know, northern Africa distinctly featured in World War Two. Conflicts in that part of Africa didn't end in 1945. It is known that big cats seldom perish in human conflicts. If anything, they thrive. If we add reports on the extinction of Atlas lions and, for this reason, the loss of interest of hunters, the conclusion is that nothing can be taken for granted in the period 1930-1960. 

You know about the intimate connection between politics, (palm) oil, money and all the rest of it. You also know that most countries that have big cats are not governed by those interested in conservation.   

What I'm saying is that it isn't easy to assess reports. When I read reports about 'extinctions' and 'functional extinctions', I take them seriously. Not because I assume the information is correct, but because I think they are an announcement about the future. In a way, they compare to orbituaries. Orbituaries about animals about to leave this here world. Not wanted, is what I read between the lines.
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Italy Ngala Offline
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( This post was last modified: 08-27-2017, 02:26 PM by Ngala )

In this article the researchers illustrated an analysis on lion skulls which reveals that a Barbary Lion is imported in UK already in 1280-1385, probably from north-west Africa.

Barbary lion skull from London
Last updated 26 June 2015

This is the oldest skull of a Barbary lion found in the UK. The lion was part of the royal zoo in the Tower of London 700 years ago.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Workmen digging in the old moat around the Tower of London in 1937 were surprised to find two extraordinarily well-preserved lion skulls.

Using carbon dating, Museum scientists determined that one of the lions lived between 1420 and 1480. The other lived between 1280 and 1385, making it the oldest lion found in the UK since the extinction of wild cave lions during the last ice age.

Genetic testing on the skulls revealed that they were pure-bred Barbary lions, Panthera leo leo.

Pride of place
For centuries, the Tower of London was home to a royal menagerie of exotic animals, from polar bears to elephants.

Lions took pride of place at the Tower's entrance, fearsome gatekeepers serving as a symbol of the strength and nobility of the throne. But although they represented the majesty of the monarchy, it seems that these animals were probably malnourished and in poor physical health.

Reading the bones
Clues about the lions' diet and health can be seen on the younger skull. 

Vertebrates Collections Manager Richard Sabin describes the key features of the skull (BBC Radio 4 clip)

Close-up of the deformed hole at the base of the fifteenth-century Barbary lion skull

*This image is copyright of its original author

The hole where the spinal cord passes through the base of the skull to the brain is partially obstructed.

'You can make out that at the top of the hole there's an infilling of bone,' says Richard. 'It's actually a form of pathology. This is a reaction to, potentially, some sort of nutritional stress. As the infilling of bone grew it would have put pressure on to the spinal cord and possibly caused paralysis and blindness.'

Today, zoos keep their lions healthy by feeding them more complete diets of meat, which include hair, fat and bone. They receive all the nutrients they would get in the wild from eating the whole of their prey. 

Missing majesty

Barbary lions originally roamed northern Africa, from Morocco to Egypt. But they were declared extinct in the wild in 1922, after centuries of over-exploitation and habitat destruction by humans.

Some people think it might be possible to bring Barbary lions back by selectively breeding captive animals thought to be descendants of Barbary lions. The question remains whether we should even if we could, particularly if their natural habitat couldn't support their reintroduction to the wild. 

Instead, Richard believes we can learn a lesson from the Museum specimens:

'Humans decimated populations of Barbary lions and pushed them into extinction. The fact that we hold their remains in our Museum collections means researchers have the opportunity to extract scientific data and put them into a modern context, using them to look at closely related species that may be heading for extinction and potentially helping to slow or halt those extinctions.'

This is the article, with the measurements of the skull: 

Ancient DNA analysis indicates the first English lions originated from North Africa Barnett et al., 2008

Abstract:
"The Royal Menagerie of England was established at the Tower of London in the 13th Century and served as a home of exotic animals until it was closed on behalf of the Duke of Wellington in 1835. Two well-preserved lion skulls recovered from the moat of the Tower of London were recently radiocarbon-dated to AD 1280-1385 and AD 1420-1480, making them the earliest confirmed lion remains in the British Isles since the extinction of the Pleistocene cave lion. Using ancient DNA techniques and cranio-morphometric analysis, we identify the source of these first English lions to lie in North Africa, where no natural lion population remains today."
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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