Five wild female lion in Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve have grown manes, and are even starting to act like males.
According to observations
, one of these lionesses has been roaring more and has even tried to mate with females. She has also killed two lion cubs – an act usually done by the male lions.
A team of biologists
published a scientific paper documenting these 5 female lions’ behaviors and the development of their manes. From the 5 lionesses, they choose to focus on a lioness they call SaF05.
While 3 of the female lions with manes were observed to court male lions, SaF05 has been seen to target both males and females.
Led by biologist, Geoffrey D. Gilfillan from the University of Sussex in UK, the team traced back at SaF05’s eight years of data and noticed that she had already been sexually mounting with three females within her pride.
Gilfillan told New Scientist
, “While SaF05 is mostly female in her behaviour - staying with the pride, mating males - she also has some male behaviours, such as increased scent-marking and roaring, as well as mounting other females. Although females do roar and scent-mark like males, they usually do so less frequently. SaF05, however, was much more male-like in her behaviour, regularly scent-marking and roaring."
At this point, no conclusion has been drawn yet on why these lionesses from Botswana are developing male characteristics and behaviors but the leading hypothesis is that the female lions may have developed heightened levels of testosterone which may have been compromised while they were still forming in the womb.
President of Conversation Group Panthera, Luke Hunter told National Geographic
, "If the former case, the genetic contribution of the sperm - which determines the sex of the foetus in most mammals - was probably aberrant, giving rise to a female with some male characteristics. Alternatively, and perhaps more likely, the problem may have occurred during gestation if the foetus was exposed to increased levels of androgens - male hormones - such as testosterone.”
This hypothesis was then supported that all evidence points to the five maned lionesses who are confirmed to be infertile.