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Text: Prehistoric Animals.
Lions (Prehistoric)
Photo: American Lion, Panthera leo atrox.
American lion, Panthera leo atrox
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Where are they found? North America

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Lions were among the commonest large predators of ice-age North America, ranging from unglaciated Alaska and Yukon (Eastern Beringia) to Mexico.

The cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea) evolved about 350 000 years ago. It is a subspecies of the lion Panthera leo, which continues to exist today in Africa and India.

The cave lion probably entered Eastern Beringia, and then southern North America from Eastern Beringia about 200 000 years ago. There, it gave rise to the enormous American lion (Panthera leo atrox). American lions were about 10% to 25% larger than today's lions.

American lions were well suited to hunting bison and wild horses in open grasslands and parklands. Like the cave lions, they became extinct about 12 000 years ago, perhaps because of the decline of their large prey and increasing human predation.

Paleolithic art from France and Russia suggests that the cave lion had a faintly striped coat. Its descendant the American lion probably did, too.

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