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Interspecies Conflict/realistic fighting evolution

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My question involves the adaptability of different predators to some hypothetical scenarios. Let's suppose the word was set back to a more primitive time due to a global catastrophe of some sort, and that catastrophe changed the face of the earth. Now many species in this said world would have to adapt to not only different prey, but climate as well. So how would an African lion adapt to the prey of the north Americas like moose as well as interactions with other predators such as bears, wolves, and mountain lions? Would any particular prey or predator interaction cause the lion to need to change or effect its growth? What about temperatures? Could sharing territory with large bears cause a change in behavior with the lions needing to become more aggressive or larger to survive? Would large male lions still continue the pattern of fighting to protect prides, or do you think the colder temperatures would allow the male lions to function better given their manes? Any additional notes you would like to add would be great. Thanks a million.

Answer
Hello Ramon.

This is an interesting question.  There are many variables to be considered and it's difficult to predict with precision what may actually occur.  There are some incidents in present day wildlife occurrences that give us something to draw upon, however, and this makes it easier to predict what may happen.  I'll separate each question below.

Q: So how would an African lion adapt to the prey of the north Americas like moose as well as interactions with other predators such as bears, wolves, and mountain lions?
A: The actual encounters with these animals won't be the biggest challenge.  Adapting to the surroundings will be.  Lions typically hunt on level savannas(wide open space with grasses and scattered trees).  Their tawny coats provide excellent camouflage that enables them to effectively ambush prey.  In North America, there are areas that may be similar, but many areas will undoubtedly be different.  The range of the moose, for example, contains areas of heavy tree cover, mountainous terrain, and many lakes.  The lions would have to modify their hunting techniques at times to negotiate these new surroundings.  Their tawny coats may not serve them as well(depending on where they are).  The coats that various big cats have(lions, tigers, jaguars, etc) work best in their own environments(especially with predator/prey interactions).  In the actual encounters with North American animals, the lions won't have many problems defending themselves or subduing prey.  A moose is the largest member of the deer family, but it is no more formidable than the Cape buffalo lions are used to dealing with(the moose may be more on par with the eland).  As far as prey goes, every herbivore in North America will be potentially on the menu(even the bison).  Bears, especially brown bears, will cause problems for a single lion, but a pride of lions would likely dominate any encounter with a bear.  Tigers and brown bears in Siberia occasionally battle over carcasses, and have been reported to fall victim to one another.  The formation of the pride is the advantage lions enjoy over tigers, as tigers are solitary hunters.  The most likely result in bear/lion interaction is mutual avoidance, but skirmishes will occur from time-to-time.  Wolves are pack animals and, like lions, enjoy the advantage of numbers.  In areas where tigers and wolves live, the wolves usually avoid the tiger.  They would probably stay out of a lion pride's way, but they may adopt the actions of the spotted hyena from time-to-time if the numbers are in their favor.  A large wolf pack might unseat a single lion from a kill, but it's rare that a lion won't have backup.  Areas that lions would heavily populate would soon be almost devoid of wolves.  Mountain lions would most likely adopt the actions of the African leopard in regards to lions: stay away.  Bears, wolves, and mountain lions would be competing for the same prey items as lions, but direct competition for the same kill would be seldom.  Nomad lions or male lions not associated with a pride would be more vunerable if faced with a large bear or a large pack of wolves, and at times a single lion would be forced to surrender a kill to them.

Q: Would any particular prey or predator interaction cause the lion to need to change or effect its growth?
A: I don't think so.  Once the lions became adapted to the natural surroundings and developed their hunting tactics for it, the interactions would not be different enough to merit any major change.

Q: What about temperatures?
A: This, to a larger degree than new terrain, can cause major problems.  The adaptation of African lions to colder climates(where moose live, for example) would only be possible if the transition was gradual. The states in the lower half of the United States would not cause major problems to a lion pride as far as temperature is concerned, but the states up north(and certainly the country of Canada) would be a different story.  To illustrate this point, let's say we took a polar bear and transplanted it immediately in Kenya.  It would soon overheat and expire due to its thick fur and layer of blubber underneath it.  If lions were in an area than gradually got colder over a period of years, they would probably evolve to grow thicker fur.  The Siberian tiger lives in cold temperatures; the Bengal tiger in warmer temperatures.  The Siberian tiger's fur is much thicker than the Bengal's because it needs the extra protection from the cold.  Over time, the same thing would likely occur in the lions.

Q: Could sharing territory with large bears cause a change in behavior with the lions needing to become more aggressive or larger to survive?
A: It would likely cause some behavior modification, but the formation of the pride would probably deem more aggression and size unnecessary.  The behavior wouldn't be changed drastically, but the presence of a land predator that can be larger and more powerful than a single lion will make unity a wise course of action if one approaches.  Presently, there is no land predator in Africa that can contend with a lion(except another lion).  The Nile crocodile(which is semi-aquatic), if included as a land animal, would qualify as a worthy opponent, but lions only deal with them near the river's edge.  A large brown bear would merit attention from lions regardless of area, so their level of caution might be heightened somewhat.  Bears will take over kills if they get the chance.  Solitary lions would need to excercise more discretion in certain situations(like whether or not protecting a kill is worth it), much like tigers do at times if faced with a larger brown bear.

Q: Would large male lions still continue the pattern of fighting to protect prides...
A: Absolutely.  Male lions are possessive over territory and females.  This is a deep-seeded part of their makeup.  A change of venue will not alter this.

Q: ...or do you think the colder temperatures would allow the male lions to function better given their manes?
A: The lion's mane is primarily for display.  It serves to imtimidate rivals and attract females.  It offers some protection in conflicts as well.  However, even though the area the mane covers might be kept warm from the cold, the rest of the lion's body is made for hotter temperatures.  The lion would need to have fur much like the Siberian tiger has for it to prosper in a colder environment.

Overall, the main point here is that animals are custom-made for the areas that they are in and time would be needed to adapt them to new surroundings.  In this senario, we are assuming the time needed has elapsed and the lions are ready to operate effectively in what they now call home.  Also, we must assume this is a natural change.  Many animals have been unnaturally uprooted from their ecosystems and introduced into another with disastrous consequenses.  Even though a particular species introduction might look good on paper, the actual placement of the species in the new area can produce unforseen problems.  For example, cats introduced to an area to control rats turn on the ground-dwelling birds that never evolved to escape attack from the cats.

Best regards.  

Interspecies Conflict

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Questions regarding animal conflicts within realistic or unrealistic settings are welcome; my strength lies in medium-to-large species. Small animals (including birds of prey), prehistoric animals, sea creatures, and domestic dog breeds are usually within my scope, but to a lesser degree. I can't confidently answer hypothetical questions about human vs animal, arachnids, insects, or amphibians, but I am willing to field them nonetheless.

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From a young age, I have been interested in animals. Starting with the original Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and World Book Encyclopedias, I have seen many animal shows and documentaries and have read multiple books on the subject. I have a solid understanding of the physiology of many animals and interspecies conflict in general.

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Associate degree in unrelated field; biology classes in college.

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