This beast may look like a male lion but it isn’t, and perhaps that is the point?
Mmamoriri is a maned lioness from the Okavango Delta, Botswana, and she is one of numerous ‘genderfluid’ big cats in the country.
Scientists have hypothesised that the male characteristics may result from disruption to embryos during conception or in the womb.
The rare genetic twist may prove to be an advantage for prides with a ‘genderfluid’ female though. Given lionesses carry out much of a pride’s hunting duties, a male appearance could help defend kills from scavengers who think better of taking on a male pride leader.
The phenomenon is not a new discovery, but as Mmamoriri will feature in a BBC documentary called The World’s Sneakiest Animals tommorow there has been fresh interest in the adaptation.
Speaking to National Geographic Luke Hunter, president of big-cat conservation group Panthera, suggested that masculine females were not isolated to prides in Botswana.
Two similarly aberrant Serengeti lionesses were outwardly female—they did not have manes, but were almost male-sized, and they challenged and fought unfamiliar males for territories as though they were males!”
This video allegedly shows Mmamoriri with other females surrounding a zebra kill.
Will have to gather round the telly to discover a bit more about nature’s incredible plot twists tomorrow then.