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|Subspecies:||P. l. melanochaitus|
|Panthera leo melanochaitus
Ch. H. Smith, 1842
The Cape Lion, Panthera leo melanochaitus, is a subspecies of lion and is now extinct in the wild.
Cape "black-maned" Lions ranged along the Cape of Africa on the southern tip of the continent. The Cape Lion was not the only subspecies living in South Africa, and its exact range is unclear. Its stronghold was Cape Province, in the area around Cape Town. The last Cape Lion seen in the province was killed in 1858.
As with the Barbary lion, several people and institutions claim to have Cape lions. In 2000, possible specimens were found in captivity in Russia and brought to South Africa for breeding. There is much confusion between Cape lions and other dark-coloured long-maned captive lions. Lions in captivity today have been bred and cross-bred from lions captured in Africa long ago, with examples from all of these 'subspecies'. Mixed together, hybridized, most of today's captive lions have a 'soup' of genes from many different lions.
Early authors justified "distinct" subspecific status of the Cape lion believed that that the seemingly fixed external morphology of the Cape lions (male’s huge mane extending behind shoulders and covering belly, and the distinctive black tips to the lion's ears). However, nowadays it is known that various extrinsic factors, including the ambient temperature, influence the colour and size of a lion’s mane. Results of mitochondrial DNA research published in 2006 do not support the "distinctness" of the Cape lion. It now seems probable that the Cape lion was only the southernmost population of the extant southern African lion.