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- The American Lion first appears in the fossil record about 1.8
Skeleton of the American Lion.
- About one hundred complete skeletons of the American Lion have been found preserved in the La Brea tar pits in California. Other fossils have been found in Canada, Texas, Idaho, Nevada, Nebraska, Wyoming, Mississippi, northern Florida, Mexico, and Peru.
- These skeletons show that it was about 30 percent larger than today's African Lion, measuring about 10 feet long, 4 feet high at the shoulder, and weighing about 750 pounds.
- The number of male and female found next to prey animals in the La Brea tar pits is roughly equal, however, indicating that unlike modern lions, in which the females do all the hunting, the American Lion hunted in male-female pairs or small groups.
- Modern lions are ambush hunters that carefully stalk their prey and then make a sudden rush. The American Lion, with its longer legs and its more powerful skull and jaws, may have been a better runner, pursuing its prey over longer distances.
- Joseph Leidy, the Philadelphia paleontologist who first described the species in 1852, from a jawbone found in Mississippi, considered it to be a distinct species of lion, and named it Felis atrox (later placed in the genus Panthera).
- Over time, other authorities argued that the American Lion was a subspecies of the African Lion, and named it Panthera leo atrox.
- In 2010 another study by Danish and American scientists concluded that while the American Lion was its own distinct species, the skull had more traits in common with the jaguar than with lions, and concluded that Panthera atrox should be called the Giant Jaguar instead.
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|Artist depiction of the American Lion.|
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