Natodomeri lion (Panthera leo)
Range and period of existence: Pleistocene of East Africa (195 000 - 205 000 years ago)
Dimensions: skull length - 460 mm, body length - 3 m, height - 125 cm, weight - 180 -350+ kg.
The partial skull of a lion from Natodomeri, northwest Kenya is described. The Natodomeri sites are correlated with Member I of the Kibish Formation, dated to between 195 ka and ca. 205 ka. The skull is remarkable for its very great size, equivalent to the largest cave lions (Panthera spelaea [Goldfuss, 1810]) of Pleistocene Eurasia and much larger than any previously known lion from Africa, living or fossil. We hypothesize that this individual represents a previously unknown population or subspecies of lion present in the late Middle and Late Pleistocene of eastern Africa rather than being an indication of climate-driven size increase in lions of that time. This raises questions regarding the extent of our understanding of the pattern and causes of lion evolution in the Late Pleistocene.