Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Skull malformations in lions: Keeping up the pressure

Date:
April 9, 2014
Source:
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)
Summary:
Scientists have examined the incidence of skull malformations in lions, a problem known to be responsible for causing neurological diseases and increased mortality. Their results suggest that the occurrence is a consequence of a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

Foramen magnum of lion (Panthera leo) skulls; right: skull of a healthy lion, left: malformed skull.
Credit: Dr. Merav Shamir

An international team of researchers led by scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) Berlin examined the incidence of skull malformations in lions, a problem known to be responsible for causing neurological diseases and increased mortality. Their results suggest that the occurrence is a consequence of a combination of environmental and genetic factors. These findings were published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Related Articles


The scientists studied the morphology of 575 lion skulls in museum collections in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa and noted the incidence of malformations with respect to the death place of lions -- died in the wild or in captivity. The researchers compared the results with skulls of tigers, a similar-sized obligatory carnivorous predator. Whereas tiger skulls of captive origin had a similar incidence of malformations as those of wild origin, large differences occurred between lion skulls from both sources.

Lions have been kept in captivity for centuries and, although they reproduce well, high rates of stillbirths as well as substantial morbidity and mortality of neonates and young lions are reported. Many of these cases were attributed to bone malformations of the skull, including the narrowing of the foramen magnum, the opening at the rear of the skull through which the spinal cord connects to the brain and which can cause associated neurological diseases.

A scientific collaboration between scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the IZW Berlin, University of Oxford, the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan, and the Blue Pearl NYC Veterinary Specialists showed that only 0.4 % of lion skulls from the wild had a narrowing of the foramen magnum whereas the constricted opening of the foramen magnum had a forty-fold higher chance to occur in lion skulls from captivity (15.8 %). Lion skulls from captivity were also wider and had a smaller cranial volume. These findings in lions and their absence in tigers suggest the presence of an interaction of the rearing environment and a heritable predisposition of lions to the pathology. "The morphological changes in many of the lion skulls from captivity suggest that some of these lions possibly died because the hind brain and spinal cord were compressed by abnormal and excessive bone formation in their skulls, resulting in severe neurological abnormalities," says Dr Merav Shamir from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "It would be interesting to know whether this is a lion-specific phenomenon. Similar investigations in other big cats would be valuable to answer this question," added Dr Nobuyuki Yamaguchi from the University of Oxford.

This anomalous skull morphology has been documented in captive lion skulls dating back as far as the 15th century, and been the subject of many studies since. "And yet," says Dr Joseph Saragusty from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, " the cause of these morphological changes is still not known. The ongoing loss of captive lions to the disease highlights the need for further investigation with a view to reducing its occurrence."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joseph Saragusty, Anat Shavit-Meyrav, Nobuyuki Yamaguchi, Rona Nadler, Tali Bdolah-Abram, Laura Gibeon, Thomas B. Hildebrandt, Merav H. Shamir. Comparative Skull Analysis Suggests Species-Specific Captivity-Related Malformation in Lions (Panthera leo). PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (4): e94527 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094527

Cite This Page:

Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). "Skull malformations in lions: Keeping up the pressure." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409204323.htm>.
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). (2014, April 9). Skull malformations in lions: Keeping up the pressure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409204323.htm
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). "Skull malformations in lions: Keeping up the pressure." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409204323.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Buzz60 (Oct. 31, 2014) For its nature series Life Story, the BBC profiled the barnacle goose, whose chicks must make a daredevil 400-foot cliff dive from their nests to find food. Jen Markham has the astonishing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) A health group in the United Kingdom has called for mandatory calorie labels on alcoholic beverages in the European Union. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) Focus on treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia means that treatment for malaria, itself a killer, is hard to come by. MSF are now undertaking the mass distribution of antimalarials in Monrovia. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins