Lions are the only members of the cat family that live in groups. Groups of female lions are known as prides. These groups include their young and up to three males at any given time. A group of male lions is known as a coalition. On average, these groups consist of two to seven males. Most coalitions are formed by relative lions, including brothers, half-brothers and cousins that were born into the same pride.
The female lions living in a pride are responsible for hunting to sustain the pack. They tend to hunt their prey in groups, stealing food from hyenas and wild dogs when available. The young members of the pride don’t begin hunting until they are a year old. The males in the pride eat first and the young eat last.
While male lions do tend to fight for the attention of the female lion, it’s the female that chooses which male she will mate with. The female lion chooses mates based on their ability to protect the young members of the pride. Scientists have recorded that females tend to select males that have darker colored manes and are more prominent in other physical characteristics.
Life Expectancy of the Female Lion
A female lion is more commonly called a lioness. She has a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years when living in the wild. A lioness that lives in captivity has a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. This life expectancy is longer than that of male lions. This may be due to the fact that females tend to hunt in packs, creating safer situations, especially in the wild.
Maternal Practices of the Lioness
Lionesses that have reached maturity tend to have litters of two to three cubs at a time. These cubs are generally weaned by the time they are eight months old. Other females within a pride will help in the rearing of the cubs until the cubs have matured enough to go out on their own. Female cubs tend to stick with the pride they were born into. Males leave to form coalitions of their own. Cubs learn the skills for hunting and protecting themselves and their group through their mothers.
Coalitions tend to cover a lot of territory while traveling. These male lions do join prides for mating purposes. Once they have bonded, the males tend to stay close to the pride for a period of one to two years. They travel to keep guard of the territory and to seek out other females from nearby prides. A coalition will battle with a bonded coalition for the purpose of taking over.
Life Expectancy of the Male Lion
A male lion living in the wild has an average life expectancy of 10 years. This is significantly shorter than a female lion. The shortened life span is due to the fact that many of the lions will hunt and travel on their own away from the coalition. This puts them at great danger of being attacked. In captivity, a male lion has the same life expectancy of a female, which is 15 to 20 years.
Important Role of the Lion’s Mane
The mane of a lion is seen as a shield to help protect its face during battles. While males within the same coalition tend to fight for the attention of a female, their battles are not as severe as when fighting predators. When joining up with a pride for mating purposes, a male lion or entire coalition will attack the existing young within that pride.
A lioness does prefer darker manes to the lighter color tan. This is due to their preference of male physical characteristics that stand out with prominence.