Author Topic: Giant lions 13,000 years ago  (Read 2098 times)

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Offline TylerDurden

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Giant lions 13,000 years ago
« on: March 31, 2009, 06:00:52 pm »
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/5076623/Giant-lions-once-roamed-Britain.html

"Giant lions once roamed Britain
Huge lions once roamed Britain alongside tigers and jaguars, scientists have discovered.
 
Last Updated: 4:09PM BST 30 Mar 2009

 Huge lions once roamed Britain alongside tigers and jaguars. By comparing their skulls, scientists revealed that British lions would have weighed up to 50 stone (317kg) ? the equivalent of a small car ? compared to African lions which weigh up to 39 ston Photo: OXFORD UNIVERSITY The wild animals were 25 per cent bigger than their modern day counterparts and hunted in vast prides during the Ice Age.

The discovery that tigers and jaguars were not the only big cats to inhabit Britain came after an analysis of fossils found in Yorkshire, Devon and London.

 
By comparing their skulls, scientists revealed that British lions would have weighed up to 50 stone (317kg) – the equivalent of a small car – compared to African lions which weigh up to 39 stone (250kg).

Dr Ross Barnett, who led the research at the University's Zoology Department, said: "These ancient lions were like a super-sized version of today's lions.

"They were up to 25 per cent bigger than those we know today and, in the Americas, with longer legs adapted for endurance running.

"What our genetic evidence shows is that these ancient extinct lions and the lions of today were very closely related.

"Meanwhile, cave art suggests that they formed prides, although the males appear not to have had manes."

The findings – published this week in science journal Molecular Ecology – suggests the lions existed during the Pleistocene era which occurred in Europe between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago.

Dr Barnett also found the lions split into two main groups with some living in Europe and Alaska and the other living in North America.

He said the lions found in North America were even bigger than the British ones – evolving with longer legs and wider skulls to increase their hunting power.

Dr Barnett added: "This unusual distribution is explained by Ice Age geography when a land bridge linked Siberia and Alaska, enabling ancient lions to cross from Eurasia into North America.

"At some point the North American ice sheets would have interrupted this migration route – creating these two genetically distinct groups of animals."

The British and European lions would have lived in a similar environment to that found in Siberia today and hunted mammoth and giant deer until they all became extinct 13,000 years ago.

Dr Nobby Yamaguchi, co-author of the study, said: "We still don't know what caused this mass extinction, although it is likely that early humans were involved in one way or another." "

It's usually assumed that most large megafauna died out c.30,000 to 40,000 years ago, but some species seem to have survived almost to the Neolithic era.
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