Lion cubs in Tulsa zoo

June 24, 2009 • 9:39 am

We have some Tuesday felids because this video, taken at the Tulsa zoo, demonstrates an evolutionary lesson.  Look closely at the cubs’ coats, and you’ll see leopard-like rosettes.  Many species of cats show this pattern in the cubs, even if the pattern disappears with growth.  It almost certainly reflects (as discussed in WEIT), an atavistic trait: the persistence in a descendant of traits that were adaptive only in an ancestor.  I suspect that the ancestor of lions had spots as adults, and that’s why they show up, briefly, in lion cubs.