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A lion with a long, dark mane.

Even on a bad hair day, male lions with long and dark manes are sexier to female lions.

Mane squeeze: Lady lions prefer males with long, dark hair

Lady lions prefer males with long, dark hair

By Rick Moore

From M, fall 2004

A great head of hair can work wonders for males. Witness Fabio, Yanni, and John Kerry.

The same can be said in the lion kingdom. It turns out that good hair for male lions--in this case, a long and dark mane--serves to intimidate other male lions and attract female lions at the same time. These are some of findings of University of Minnesota lion researchers Craig Packer and Peyton West, and they're the basis of a new exhibit at the U's Bell Museum of Natural History.

Packer, a professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior, and West, a graduate student, studied lions in the Serengeti in Tanzania. Through field experiments using dummy lions wearing wigs of varying shades, Packer and West discovered the power of the mane to keep other males at bay and to make the ladies purr. Since dark-maned lions suffer more from the heat, their ability to withstand the stress indicates that they're exceptionally fit, suggests Packer. The researchers also found that offspring of the darker-maned males are more likely to survive.

The exhibit at the Bell Museum includes videos of lions, sounds of the Serengeti, and interactive displays, including an actual dummy lion that Packer and West used in their behavioral experiments.

For information on "The Lion's Mane: Science in the Serengeti," call 612-624-9050 or visit www.bellmuseum.org.

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