Divided infraorbital foramen in the lion (Panthera leo): Its implications for colonisation history, population bottlenecks, and conservation of the Asian lion (P. l. persica)
Yamaguchi N., Kitchener AC., Driscoll CA., Macdonald DW.
A divided infraorbital foramen is an important morphological feature in lion taxonomy and has previously been considered to occur only in the Asian lion, Panthera leo persica. Based on an examination of 498 lion skulls from museum collections in Europe and southern Africa, we report for the first time on the prevalence of the divided infraorbital foramen in African lions, as well as its occurrence in the tiger, P. tigris and the extinct Pleistocene European cave lion, P. leo spelaea. The higher frequency of this characteristic in Asian lions may have occurred after the lion colonised Asia, and can be considered an important morphological feature characterising this population. It is not clear whether recent anthropogenic population bottlenecks have influenced changes in its prevalence over the last 200 years.