If humans have a third and fourth gender socially, don’t you know that lions, too? Particularly, lionesses or female lions found to be having gender issues too, just like humans.
Male lions are distinguished by their mane and vocals. Their mane is used to attract female lions and their roar is to protect their territory and for calling other members of their pride. However, five lionesses were found growing a mane and acting like a male in Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango delta. These characteristics can rarely be seen to female lions because generally, females are not vocal and do not have a mane. Until now, these rare characteristics of lionesses are still a big question to some researchers. And the way they behave is still under a long process of study.
Geoffrey D. Gilfillan at the University of Sussex in Falmer, UK, and colleagues have reported these five lionesses and studied them since March 2014. For two years, he focused on observing the behavior of the one who is larger than other females and has an underdeveloped mane. They called her SaF05.
Gilfillan found SaF05 mostly female in behavior. She is staying with the pride and mating males. However, she also has some male behaviors such as increased scent-marking and roaring, as well as mounting other females. Scent-marking and roaring are less frequent made by females, whereas, SaF05 is making it regularly.
Luke Hunter, a President and Chief Conservation Officer at the Global Wild Cat Conservation Organization Panthera, explained that it is because of an increased level of testosterone as these lionesses mature. In lions, testosterone directly affects the development of manes. Males, when they lose their ability to produce testosterone if castrated, they will also lose their mane. This was proven when a captive lioness named Emma, at the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa in 2011, developed a mane. The lioness diagnosed having a problem on her ovaries that made her developed high levels of testosterone. Emma has undergone operation of testosterone removal and she reverted to a typical lioness again.
Kathleen Alexander at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg also stated that when they observed maned lionesses were mating, none of them became pregnant. Thus, they are infertile.
Hunter suspected that all five known maned females might have a genetic component on their population why they supposed to be different.
These only show that everything has wonders to discover, not only humans but even with animals.