American Lion

painting of an American lion

(American Lion) © Government of the Yukon / Artist George "Rinaldino" Teichmann (1997)

The range, the area a species calls home, of the American lion was larger than any other land mammal except modern humans.

Originating in Africa, it spread into Asia and migrated across the Bering Land Bridge into North America. When you think "lion," what home comes to mind? Do you picture the vast, open savannah? The tundra-steppe of the Bering Land Bridge was like a colder version of today's African Savannah.

Lions were well adapted to living in this ecosystem. Weighing up to 520 lbs (235 kg) and up to 8 ft. (2.4 m) long, it was 25 percent larger than today's lion! Its size helped it to hunt and kill the large mammals living throughout its range, including its favorite food, steppe bison. Rarely, though, could the lion enjoy its meal, because bigger predators were watching for an opportunity to steal its food.

Last updated: April 15, 2015

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