Thursday, April 20, 2017

We are Slow and We Taste Good; Great News for Tsavo Lions - Science

You only think you're afraid of lions.  The Tsavo Lions didn't just kill but ate about thirty-five people in a month or so ... and they liked it.

Microphotographs of the wear patterns of lion teeth. Two on the top left are from wild-caught lions. Top right is from a captive lion. The two bottom left are from the Tsavo man-eaters. The bottom right is from the Mfuwe man-eater. The microwear patterns on the man-eaters did not show any evidence that they were consuming bones.

Credit: Larisa DeSantis / Vanderbilt

Science Daily: The tale teeth tell about the legendary man-eating lions of Tsavo

You don't have to ask these Tsavo Lions where's the beef; they already found it.

An analysis of the microscopic wear on the teeth of the legendary "man-eating lions of Tsavo" reveals that it wasn't desperation that drove them to terrorize a railroad camp in Kenya more than a century ago.

"Our results suggest that preying on people was not the lions' last resort, rather, it was simply the easiest solution to a problem that they confronted," said Larisa DeSantis, assistant professor of earth and environmental studies at Vanderbilt University.

The study, which she performed with Bruce Patterson, MacArthur Curator of Mammals at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, is described in a paper titled "Dietary behavior of man-eating lions as revealed by dental microwear textures" published online Apr. 19 by the journal Nature: Scientific Reports.

- SD

In other words, we're slow and we're easy.

"Despite contemporary reports of the sound of the lion's crunching on the bones of their victims at the edge of the camp, the Tsavo lion's teeth do not show wear patterns consistent with eating bones," said DeSantis. "In fact, the wear patterns on their teeth are strikingly similar to those of zoo lions that are typically provisioned with soft foods like beef and horsemeat."

The study provides new support for the proposition that dental disease and injury may play a determining role in turning individual lions into habitual man eaters. The Tsavo lion which did the most man-eating, as established through chemical analysis of the lions' bones and fur in a previous study, had severe dental disease. It had a root-tip abscess in one of its canines -- a painful infection at the root of the tooth that would have made normal hunting impossible.

"Lions normally use their jaws to grab prey like zebras and buffalos and suffocate them," Patterson explained. "This lion would have been challenged to subdue and kill large struggling prey; humans are so much easier to catch."

- SD

You wanna see these Tsavo Lions?  (WIKI:  Tsavo Man-Eaters)

Ed:  NO!

Best to bail now since they're coming right now ... for you.

When I first saw them, I thought, of course, it's the females which do the hunting while the lazy male waits.  However, the Tsavo Lions look like females but actually they are males who do not have manes.

The Tsavo Man-Eaters on display in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.


The two lion specimens in Chicago's Field Museum are known as FMNH 23970, the 'crouching' mount (killed 9 December 1898) and FMNH 23969, the 'standing' mount (killed 29 December 1898). Recent studies have been made upon the isotopic signature analysis of Δ13C and Nitrogen-15 in their bone collagen and hair keratin and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Using realistic assumptions on the consumable tissue per victim, lion energetic needs, and their assimilation efficiencies, researchers compared the man-eaters' Δ13C signatures to various reference standards: Tsavo lions with normal (wildlife) diets, grazers and browsers from Tsavo East and Tsavo West, and the skeletal remains of Taita people from the early 20th century. This analysis estimated that FMNH 23969 ate the equivalent of 10.5 humans and that FMNH 23970 ate 24.2 humans.


Oh, yeah, they're definitely going to eat you.

Ed: too bad they didn't eat Walter the Dentist before he shot Cecil the Lion

Yes, it's a shame, that.  Walter the Dentist wasn't worth much as a human but maybe at least he tasted good.

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