Friday, April 04, 2008

The Lions in the Tower

Two lion skulls kept in the Tower of London have been identified as belonging to an extinct subspecies, the black-maned Barbary lion. The skulls have an odd provenance. They were dredged out of the silt in the Tower's moat in the 1930s and dated to the thirteenth century. DNA studies confirm they are the two oldest known Barbary skulls. The DNA from these surprisingly well-preserved specimens will be used for comparison studies with several lions thought to contain Barbary blood and now living in South Africa and elsewhere. The idea of breeding the subspecies back into existence is still an uncertain hope, but this discovery gives zoologists a better starting point.

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