The lion (Panthera leo) is a species in the family Felidae, and a member of the genus Panthera. It exhibits a pronounced sexual dimorphism; males are larger than females with a typical weight range of 150 to 250 kg (331 to 551 lb) for the former and 120 to 182 kg (265 to 401 lb) for the latter. In addition, male lions have a prominent mane, which is the most recognisable feature of the species. Both sexes have hairy tufts at the end of their tails.
Present in Africa and India, the lion typically inhabits grasslands and savannahs, but is absent in dense forests. It is usually more diurnal than other big cats, but when persecuted adapts to being active at night and at twilight. A lion pride consists of a few adult males, related females and cubs. Prides vary in size and composition from three to 20 adult lions, depending on habitat and prey availability. Females cooperate when hunting and prey mostly on large ungulates, including antelope, deer, buffalo, zebra and even giraffe.
In the Pleistocene, lions were the most widespread large land mammals and ranged throughout Eurasia, Africa and North America. Today, the lion occurs in fragmented populations in Sub-Saharan Africa and one in western India. It has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1996, as populations in African range countries declined by about 43% since the early 1990s. Lion populations are untenable outside designated protected areas. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are the greatest causes of concern. The Asiatic lion and the West African lion are listed as Endangered and Critically Endangered, respectively.
The lion is one of the most widely recognised animal symbols in human culture. It has been extensively depicted in sculptures and paintings, on national flags, and in contemporary films and literature. Lions have been kept in menageries since the time of the Roman Empire, and have been a key species sought for exhibition in zoos over the world since the late 18th century. Cultural depictions of lions are known from the Upper Paleolithicperiod, with carvings and paintings from the Lascaux and Chauvet Caves in France dated to 17,000 years ago, through virtually all ancient and medieval cultures where they once occurred.