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The mystery of how a female lion grew a mane has been solved, after scientists discovered the big cat has a tumour that produces male hormones.
Caretakers noticed that 18-year-old African lion Bridget began to grow the extra hair around her neck and head between March and November 2017.
News - Headlines - February - Veterinarians - Cause
The news hit headlines in February, when veterinarians admitted they had not yet discovered the cause for the rare growth.
Thanks to a blood sample comparison to Bridget's sister Tia, they have since detected elevated levels of two hormones which help explain the changes.
Explanation - Tumour - Bridget - Glands - Kidneys
The most likely explanation is a benign hormone-secreting tumour developing in Bridget's adrenal glands, found above her kidneys, experts say.
Staff at Oklahoma City Zoo, where Bridget is kept, expected that blood tests would reveal elevated testosterone levels, since this hormone is responsible for the production of manes in male lions.
Bridget - Sister - Tia - Testosterone - Levels
What they found was somewhat unexpected, Bridget and sister Tia had almost identical testosterone levels.
Bridget’s levels of two other hormones, cortisol and androstenedione, were notably higher than Tia's, who was born in the same litter as Bridget in 1999.
Staff - Zoo - Bridget - Health - Fur
Staff at the zoo say Bridget's overall health is excellent for an 18-year-old and, besides a little extra fur, the condition won’t affect her quality of life.
Bridget’s mini-mane is not likely to continue to grow, but only time will tell.
Zoo - Staff - Caretakers - Bridget - Health
Zoo veterinary staff and caretakers will continue to monitor Bridget's health with periodic blood level checks two to three times each year to check for changes that might indicate additional steps are necessary.
In a written statement, a spokesman said: 'Veterinary staff and caretakers developed behavioural training methods that would allow them...
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