An interesting study by scientists at University Lyon 1 and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that lionesses live at least 50% longer in the wild than male lions. It’s an interesting comparison to humans. In humans, women live an average 7.8% longer than men and this difference is found across all populations on the planet. The scientists who conducted the study said that they were surprised that across 101 different species, females lived an average of 18% longer than males for more than 60% of the species in the study.
The difference in the lifespan of female and male lions is interesting to me and I would hope other cat lovers. The $64,000 question is why? There are two obvious, main reasons. It may be that the genetics of females allows them to live longer or that males die unnatural deaths more frequently than females either through being killed or disease, for example.
However, the reason, is not believed to be concerned with the ageing process and genetics. It appears to be about lifestyles and environmental and sociological pressures. In short male lions have a higher risk or mortality than female lions.
Although information obtained by the study does not support the idea that females live so much longer because males fight with each other to control a pride of female lions. There appears to be more complexity to the answer than that.
One possible reason is that female lions look after each other. They live together in a pride. Sisters, mothers and daughters hunt together and look after each other. Male lions often live alone or with their brother and don’t have the same support network.
Another possible reason for female longevity in many species is that when males provide some or all of the parental care female lifespan increases. This is for the obvious reason that there is a health cost in giving birth and caring for young. The cost is reduced when both parents work together to raise their young.
It suprised the researchers that the differences between female and male longevity increased with respect to wild animals compared to humans. At the moment they do not have a firm reason as to why this big difference exists but they intend to do further work on captive animals in zoos where they are protected from predators or competition for food and mates. They will then be able to make a comparison which will help to illuminate the reason for this large disparity in longevity.
The study is published
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