Though lions are not as well-known for leaping as many other members of the cat family, they are still capable of springing great distances and great heights. The max- imum leap of a lion has been measured at 40 feet (12.1 meters). This jumping ability also enables them to enter trees. Other cats are quicker, more skillful climbers, but lions can still reach quite lofty perches. They tend to climb more when they are young and agile, and older, heavier lions may not be able to climb at all. A lion’s mouth is equipped with 30 teeth that are large and impressive and of more use in gripping and subduing prey than in con- suming it. The four largest teeth are the razor sharp canines, which are effective killing tools. Then, there are four carnassial teeth, capa- ble of cutting through skin and other tough material such as tendons between muscles and bones. The tongue, which is exceptionally coarse, aids in rasping apart meat and prepar- ing it for digestion. But because its teeth are not designed for chewing food finely, the lion must swallow its meal in chunks.
A young elephant is soon dispatched by the lion’s powerful bite into its neck. The sheer weight and strength of the lion is enough to overcome this animal, even though it is larger than the cat.
either choke or suffocate the victim. If a smaller creature is attacked, the paws are used to knock down and kill the prey. These paws are particularly large and conceal long claws that are used to hook into and hold struggling animals. Because they are retractable and are extended only when needed, the claws are able to maintain their sharpness. Once prey has been killed, the lion uses its claws while feed- ing to remove excessively large chunks of meat from its teeth.
Though capable of short bursts of speed of up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour, the lion is not always successful in catching its intended victim. Some animals bolt and dash quickly out of reach. The lion’s lack of stamina makes it incapable of long, hard pursuits.
The lion’s differently shaped teeth are variously designed for holding, killing, and cutting. Because these teeth are of little help in chewing, the lion must swallow its food in large chunks.
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