The scientific tourist #86 — the American Lion

Today, you get a “two-fer” — two shots of the same subject, from different museums. The subject of today’s extra largesse is the American Lion (Panthera atrox), a none-too-well-known extinct resident of North (and to a lesser degree South) America.

The American Lion (a.k.a., the North American Lion, or the American Cave Lion) was one of the largest wild cats to ever live, and the largest lion ever — some 25% larger than the modern African lion. After thriving for nearly 2 million years, the American Lion went extinct about 10,000 years ago — as part of a mass extinction in North America at the end of the Pleistocene (the subject of an upcoming podcast episode, once I find a few hours to pull it together).

The first shot of this fine subject (although, obviously of a reconstruction) comes from the San Diego Natural History Museum:

American Lion

Needless to say, you’d be in big trouble if you were in this position in real life. Lucky he’s just fiberglass!

The second shot comes from the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California:

American Lion

Over 80 individual American Lion skeletons have been found in the tar pits so far — a good number, but still well below the count for other predators (particularly dire wolves) found there. Whether this means that the lions were less numerous, or just more intelligent, than the wolves has yet to be decided.

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