A Lion in all his majesty, awe and power, lacks the requisite intelligence to decipher when another lion’s cub is passed on to him. He will diligently be a father to the cub as long as it is delivered in his pride. Yet nobody dares play such a game with the Zebra. Plain Zebras maintain a very strict sexual relationship such that a Mare cannot engage in a sexual relationship outside the family led by the dominant Stallion. If she ventures out and gets pregnant, no one will know, but at birth, during the naming ceremony when the Foal is presented to the entire family, the Head honcho will carry out a DNA test to ascertain the paternity of the Foal. This is done by smell. Every family member has a distinct smell easily recognisable by other family members. So if the newborn Foal is a product of wild oats sowing, the Alpha male will brutally kill it in a way that other female Zebras would be watching for deterrence purposes.
But Lions run an unofficial promiscuous mating system, where females mate with more than one lion within a coalition of brothers or friends. However, where there’s a single Alpha Lion, the females all submit to it. Female lionesses have been observed to play the promiscuity game especially when they encounter stranger Lions that are well chiselled with a very dark mane. In Liondom, the darker the mane, the higher the testosterone, and the higher quality DNA they’d love to pass on to their offspring. So lionesses rush such lions. Interestingly, sexually experienced lionesses have devised ways of playing the lead Lions. A Lion’s roar is like a DNA result circulating through the wave.
A roar can be heard within more than a kilometre radius. It is both a warning and a message. A warning that if you can hear the roar, you are either intruding or trespassing through private property. And it is a message to let you know that the roarer is challenging all existing protocols. Another lion’s roar is processed differently by another lion and another lioness. While another lion can calculate the age, muscle mass, strength and size of the roarer, a lioness will process all these and more. From that roar, she can calculate the quality of testosterone, the size, age, and above all, the sexual prowess of the owner of the roar. Armed with such information, she starts working on the possibility of an attack and how she would protect her cubs from infanticide. That is if the invading lion has all the qualities she would desire in a mate.
To this end, she might be sneaking out for a sex romp with the stranger without the knowledge of the Alpha male in the pride. Often, it takes months from the time a bandit lion announces his presence within a territory, to the time he makes a move. This gives the Lioness an opportunity to the scheme. She knows that Lions do not kill their cubs, so this helps the female strategies of reducing infanticide through confused paternities and enhancing genetic variability amongst litters. When the Lion with the eardrum-blasting roar shows up, the resident male would decide whether to fight or flee. His choices are determined by the information he gets from processing the roar of the intruder. No two lions have the same roar, the same way no two Zebras have the same stripes.
A Lion hardly surrenders his pride without a fight and these fights mostly lead to deaths or serious injuries. Intriguingly there are occasions the pride lionesses can join to defend their Alpha male. But in all, head or tail, a Lion is always the loser and that’s why they die much earlier than the females. A typical female can outlive four to five different Alpha males.
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