You don’t need to be an expert to know that lionesses are different from lions by their mane: only the latter, in fact, from the first year of life see a thick mane growing around their head.
At the Oklahoma City Zoo, however, a very curious and unusual fact happened: A lioness began to develop a mane much like a male specimen, but what makes it even more unusual is that the lioness started sporting his mane at the age of 18 .
image credit: pikrepo
Oklahoma City Zoo staff noticed a change in the appearance of Bridget, the lioness who had lived in the zoo for 18 years. Bridget has always been a standard lioness, with weight, height, and behaviors typical of lionesses, but for some time she had started to develop a miniature mane around her head .
A similar episode was observed in the lion population living in the Okavango Delta, a river flowing in Botswana: here at least 5 lionesses developed mane like Bridget while showing typical behaviors of the male lion, like roaring or marking the territory.
Such an incidence of this change in physical appearance suggests the involvement of a genetic factor, but this is not the case with Bridget, who began to develop mane at the age of 18!
At 18, a lion in captivity is considered old, so the mane cannot be due to a genetic factor.
After comparing Bridget’s blood samples with those of her sister, who never presented a mane, vets found that there was nothing unusual about her testosterone levels in her blood. As they suspected, Bridget was discovered to have a benign tumor on her adrenal glands, which are involved in regulating hormone secretion, but which do not cause her any pain or discomfort other than excess hair around her head.
However, soon after national media interest gained in Bridget and her new mane, the lioness began to suffer from heart disease, possibly due to her advanced age. In fact, heart problems are very common in older specimens.
Bridget left the zoo forever at the age of 18, and for many, she will remain the lioness who developed a mane.
source used: smithsonianmag.com