Scientists Have No Idea Why This 18-Year-Old Lioness Randomly Grew a Mane

For eighteen years, a big cat named Bridget looked like an ordinary lioness. Recently, however, the Oklahoma City Zoo resident grew mane typical of lions. The development has stumped local veterinarians and the zoo’s staff.

Said Gretchen Cole, an associate veterinarian at the zoo:

“After a while, it became obvious to everybody that Bridget was developing something a little different.”

Credit: Oklahoma City Zoo

ABC News reports that the zoo’s staff have taken blood samples to try and deduce why the lioness all of a sudden sprouted a “mini-mane.” The samples will be compared to the samples taken from Bridget’s sister. Both are from the same litter, but Tia has not shown signs of similar hair growth.

Changes when a female develops characteristics of a male are unusual,” Cole said.

Scientists are looking to a population of lions living in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Africa, for answers. At least five females — just like Bridget — have developed manes. Apparently, all have displayed more masculine traits, such as mounting females, roaring, and scent-marking. Based on this data, experts believe excessive testosterone levels may be the culprit.

OKC Zoo veterinary caretakers are working to solve a very curious case; Bridget, the Zoo’s 18-year-old African lioness,…

Posted by Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden on Monday, February 19, 2018

The lionesses are stronger and larger due to the higher testosterone levels, but not all effects are beneficial. A surge in testosterone is linked to infertility issues. Such was documented in 2013 when a 13-year-old lioness at the National Zoo in South Africa experienced issues with her ovaries as a result of high testosterone levels.

It is also possible Bridget has a benign tumor located on her adrenal or pituitary glands. Because these glands regulate hormones, it could explain why she suddenly sprouted a mane.

The average age of a lion is 16.9 years. As a result, Bridget’s age places her in the “geriatric” category of lions. According to Cole, the lioness doesn’t seem to notice her new hairdo. In fact, she is acting “completely normal.” In addition to eating and grooming the same, she still has a “strong attitude.”

“It’s only the outward appearance of the mane that has changed,” said Cole. “… We are trying to solve the puzzle.”

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h/t IFLScience, ABC News