Tarangire Lions

Lions are more diverse than many may think. Indeed, recent research shows that lions may be comfortably divided into races. An expert on lions can tell you what part of Africa a particular lion is likely from by how it looks. Have a look at these lions:


Anyone who knows anything about lions knows that these are Tarangire lions. Tarangire is a park in Tanzania that I think is somewhat underrated. It could easily be the first choice among parks to visit in Tanzania, rather than the second or third. It has its own migratory system (you can also tell the wildebeest of Tarangire from those of other areas). The leopards here are known to be freakin’ extra big. And the lions not only look different, but they are famous for hanging out in trees. Lions will hang out in trees pretty much anywhere, but here they seem to do it a lot more than in other regions.

There were about a dozen lions on this particular fallen tree (I’m thinking fig tree but can’t be sure) but this is a closeup of just a few of them.

Just don’t make any sudden loud noises.


  1. #1 Dallas
    December 4, 2008

    So, do you, yourself, support the idea that they are races based on their differences in appearance and behavior?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    December 4, 2008

    No. I support the idea that there are races of lions because, it would appear (and this may be wrong, so this is subject to revision) that there are geographically distinct populations (with gaps in between). These geographically distinct populations have a lot of transhumance (mainly male nomadism, perhaps) within but virtually no contact between, so there is a lot of homogeneity within the groups but distinct clear differences between them.

    There is a world in which every SUV is an SUV and every minivan is a minivan. That is the world of lions. Then there is the world in which we find the crossovers. That is the world of humans and many other mammals.

  3. #3 JanieBelle
    December 4, 2008

    Geographically distinct enough to lead to a speciation event at some point, do you think? That little crossover?

  4. #4 Anne Gilbert
    December 4, 2008

    I can’t see any differences between the Tarangire lions and any other pictures of African lions I’ve seen. But OTOH, I’ve never been in Africa, so I’m ignorant on that score. Also, it may be that there were probably more lions in Africa in the past, hence more populations which were less geographically isolated9except perhaps at the edges of their ranges), and therefore less sharp differentiations. Of course, I could well be wrong. I’m just throwing this out as a possibility. But this possibility would make them more like human populations. Or possibly not. As I say, I don’t know.
    Anne G

  5. #5 K.
    December 4, 2008

    Fascinating. It’s amazing how the animal societies are continually demonstrated to be even more complex than we’ve imagined.