Tag Archives: extinction

The American Lion

Skull of an American Lion, discovered in Alaska

The American Lion went extinct approximately 11,000 years ago. A sister lineage to the European Cave Lion, the American Lion was 25% larger than today’s African Lion. In fact, they may well have been the largest feline to prowl the Earth’s surface, standing 3.9 feet at the shoulder. The saber-toothed cat was more stout and muscular, and the American Lion more lean. The two predators hunted in a very different style, with evidence showing the lion being built for speed.

Home range of the American Lion

The American Lion ranged from Alaska through much of what is now the western and central United States, Mexico and into South America.

Artist depiction of the American Lion

I’ve written on here before about the steppe bison at the Museum of the North that is on exhibit. The bison was quickly frozen after its death, and preserved in the permafrost. On its flanks, one can see the claw and bite marks from an American Lion.

There is some debate as to whether the species was actually a lion, or from the tiger or jaguar lineage, but most classify the species as being a sister line to the European Cave Lion, which was isolated after many thousands of years.

A complete skeleton of an American Lion

The above skeleton of an American Lion came from the La Brea Tar Pits, but there were relatively few found in the pits compared to the saber-toothed tiger. One theory is that the American Lion had one of the largest brain cavities of any feline, so it’s possible most of them were smart enough to avoid the tar.

No matter how you look at it, the American Lion was one, big cat. It must have been an impressive sight.