The Lion's Mane

Why does the lion have a mane? Does the King of Beasts need his mane for protection or is it a signal of his power and fitness? University of Minnesota researchers Craig Packer and Peyton West were the first to test these two theories—and their research reveals surprising facts about the mane's true purpose and its role in attracting a mate.

The Lion's Mane is a traveling exhibit designed to engage visitors in the steps Packer and West used as they searched for the answer to what at first appeared to be a simple question. To test their hypotheses, the researchers devised a number of experiments including one using life-sized, dummy lions with interchangeable mane "wigs." By observing how lions reacted to the dummies in various guises, Packer and West determined that female lions preferred males with darker manes, while males were most threatened by longer, darker manes.

The Lion's Mane enables visitors to learn about lion biology, behavior and field research by following the scientific process. The exhibit areas include Land Rover Research Station, Lion Identification Game, and Dummy Lion Experiment. The exhibit appeals to a general audience and is accessible to children who visit with their school groups, families, clubs, or other social groups.

National Geographic, National Public Radio, CNN, BBC, Science, The Los Angeles Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle have featured Packer and West's research.

Recently, The Lion's Mane traveled to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. See the exhibit set up, and in action:


For additional information about the exhibit, click the following links:

National Science Foundation.Funding provided by the National Science Foundation