The North American Cave Lion

The American lion (Panthera leo atrox) – also known as the North American cave lion – is an extinct subspecies of lion that lived in North America during the Pleistocene epoch (340,000 to 11,000 years ago). Genetic analysis has revealed that it was the sister lineage to the Eurasian cave lion. It was part of the Pleistocene megafauna, a wide variety of large mammals that lived at the time. The majority of American lion fossils have come from the La Brea Tar Pits.

The American lion was about 25% larger than the modern African lion, making it one of the largest known felids.

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The American lion is estimated to have measured 1.6 to 2.5 m (5 ft 3 in to 8 ft 2 in) from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail and stood 1.2 m (3.9 ft) at the shoulder. Thus, it was smaller than its contemporary competitor, the giant short-faced bear, which was the largest carnivoran of North America at the time, and arguably the saber-toothed cat, Smilodon populator, which may have weighed up to 400 kg (880 lb). In 2008, the American lion was estimated to weigh up to 420 kg (930 lb). A study in 2009 showed an average weight of 256 kg (564 lb) for males and 351 kg (774 lb) for the largest specimen analyzed.[9] A study in 2012 estimated a range of 235–523 kg (518–1,153 pounds) for males and 175–365 kg (386–805 pounds) for females, which suggests that the lion was heavier than Smilodon.

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About 80 American lion individuals have been recovered from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, so their morphology is well known. Their features strongly resemble those of modern lions, but they were considerably larger, and are believed to have been the largest subspecies of lion.

Preserved skin remains found with skeletal material thought to be from the American lion in caves in Argentina indicate that the animal was reddish in color. Cave paintings from in El Ceibo in the province of Santa Cruz seem to confirm this, and reduce the possibility of confusion with fossil jaguars, as similar cave paintings show the latter cat accurately as being yellow in color.

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The earliest lions known in the Americas south of Alaska are from the Sangamonian Stage – the last interglacial period – following which, the American lion spread from Alberta to Maryland, reaching as far south as Chiapas, Mexico. It was generally not found in the same areas as the jaguar, which favored forests over open habitats. It was absent from eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, perhaps due to the presence of dense boreal forests in the region. The American lion was formerly believed to have colonized northwestern South America as part of the Great American Interchange. However, the fossil remains found in the tar pits of Talara, Peru actually belong to an unusually large jaguar. On the other hand, fossils of a large felid from late Pleistocene localities in southern Chile and Argentina traditionally identified as an extinct subspecies of jaguar, Panthera onca mesembrina, have been reported to be remains of the American lion.

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Henry and Baloo: Dog and cat travel companions gain cult following

BBC

Cat asleep on top of dog's head, with dog looking into cameraImage copyrightCYNTHIA BENNETT

Best friends Henry and Baloo have a lot in common – they have both been rescued and now enjoy long walks in the great outdoors. What makes them special to their many fans is that they are a dog and cat travelling duo.

Their unlikely friendship and hiking trips around the beautiful mountainous landscapes of Colorado have gained the pair a cult social media following.

Hundreds of thousands of people follow their adventures on the photo-sharing platform Instagram.

For owners Cynthia Bennett and Andre Sibilsky, their popularity is surreal.

Cat lying on top of dog's head in front of mountain landscape copyrightCYNTHIA BENNETT
Image captionBaloo is known for his unusual sleeping position – on top of Henry’s head

Cynthia and Andre met in Boston, but as New Hampshire and Texas natives, the couple say they are both nature lovers who were destined to move away from city life.

“We wanted to head west, toward bigger mountains. We came upon Colorado and moved on a whim, there wasn’t a lot of planning involved,” Cynthia told the BBC.

The pair started hiking regularly and once settled, decided to extend their family by adopting a dog.

Henry – a tall and lanky German Shepherd, Husky, Boxer, Staffordshire Terrier and Aussie mix – stood out right away.

The couple pose for a selfie in a tent with the two animalsImage copyrightCYNTHIA BENNETT
Image captionThe animals’ popularity has allowed the couple to pursue their love of the outdoors

“He was the same age as all the other puppies but twice the size. As soon as I got into the pen to see him, he crawled onto my lap and went belly up,” Cynthia explains, laughing.

“Andre knew then we were taking him home. I feel like he chose us in a way.”

Cynthia’s family, she says, are dumbfounded by their popularity.

“I told my grandfather, who is my best friend. He’s very outdoorsy and natural so we’ve always been really close. He thinks it’s mind-blowing.”

Andre works a typical office job in finance, but the popularity of the Instagram account has led Cynthia to scale back on her work in event marketing and focus more on updating the account and her passion for photography.

“Taking a leap as an artist is very scary and it’s not very stable in the long side of things, but I tell my followers all the time you are changing my life and allowing me to do what I love,” Cynthia says.

Dog stands on top of hilly landscape with cat on top of himImage copyrightCYNTHIA BENNETT
Image captionCynthia points out to followers that Baloo is not strapped in any way to Henry
“It’s also giving Henry and Baloo a better life, I get more time off to travel and be with them.”It is not all positive, however. Popularity has brought on some backlash against the couple’s alternative outdoor-based lifestyle, according to Cynthia.

“As soon as you get well known, you get the other side – which has been different to deal with.

“I’m like, why are you attacking a dog and a cat? I just don’t get it.”

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But she says the support far outweighs the negativity.

Through the social platform they have been able to connect with others, such as people in the so-called “vanlife” community, who receive similar complaints and criticism over their nomadic lifestyles.

“You just have to ignore it and let it wash over you. You just read the hundreds of other comments that say Henry and Baloo brighten up their day.”

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Gigantic Gator in Florida

A woman walking near the wetlands of Florida captured footage of what may be the biggest alligator ever seen or filmed in the wild.

Estimated to be a jaw-dropping 15 feet long, the monstrous gator was spotted by astounded witness Marcy Clarius in the city of Delray Beach.

Fortunately, she was able to document the nightmarish moment that the giant gator emerged from the water as Clarius exclaimed “oh, my God!”

For comparison’s sake, the smaller alligator seen next to the creature in the footage is a popular denizen of the wetlands, nicknamed ‘George,’ that is thought to measure nine feet long.

The current record for the largest gator found in Florida is 14 feet, three-and-a-half inches, meaning that Clarius’ creature could be the new champion, provided some brave soul steps forward and offers to measure it.

Smoking Orangutan

BBC

Indonesia zoo condemned over smoking orangutan

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Animal rights activists have condemned staff at a zoo where an orangutan was filmed smoking.

A visitor flicked a cigarette into the enclosure at Bandung zoo, and Odon, 22, picked it up and started puffing. Footage of the incident has gone viral.

Zoo staff said the incident was regrettable, and that the guard may have been taking a break at the time.

Indonesia has one of the highest smoking rates in the world and a bad record of animal protection.

“There’s actually a sign”

A zoo spokesperson said there are measures in place to prevent exactly this from happening.

“There’s actually a sign at the location which says visitors are not allowed to give food and cigarettes to the animals,” said spokesperson Sulhan.