Contributions to Zoology, 77 (1) – 2008Ross Barnett; Nobuyuki Yamaguchi; Beth Shapiro; Richard Sabin: Ancient DNA analysis indicates the first English lions originated from North Africa

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Abstract

The Royal Menagerie of England was established at the Tower of London in the 13th Century and served as a home of exotic animals until it was closed on behalf of the Duke of Wellington in 1835. Two well-preserved lion skulls recovered from the moat of the Tower of London were recently radiocarbon-dated to AD 1280-1385 and AD 1420-1480, making them the earliest confirmed lion remains in the British Isles since the extinction of the Pleistocene cave lion. Using ancient DNA techniques and cranio-morphometric analysis, we identify the source of these first English lions to lie in North Africa, where no natural lion population remains today.