TwilightBeasts

American lion reconstruction by Sergiodlarosa via Wikimedia Commons American lion reconstruction by Sergiodlarosa via Wikimedia Commons

Talk about the American lion today and most people will think you mean the cougar (Puma concolor), a beautiful, lithe predator sadly extinct from most of the Eastern United States, but still doing well in the west, and in South America. However, talk to me about the American lion and we can discuss something a little more exciting: Panthera [leo] atrox! Back in the Pleistocene, lions were “top cat” and had a greater range than puny Homo sapiens: Spain, Siberia, South Africa, Syria were all home to lions (Panthera leo) or cave lions (Panthera [leo] spelaea). So too was North America. Here, a unique subspecies/species had been present since at least the Sangamon interglacial (130-120ka BP) cut off from other lion populations by the thick wall of ice that covered most of Canada. Fossils of…

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