Okavango Delta, Botswana, Africa

An African lioness is showing her impressive large teeth. You see in this close-up photograph how long her teeth are, indeed prodigious. She is doing the Flehmen behavior.

copyright Anette Mossbacher, 6 April, 2020

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This photograph was captured with a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV and a lens. The following settings were used:

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Exposure time: 1/500s
  • ISO: 5000
  • Focal Length: 600mm

The original photograph has the following dimensions: 3834 by 2556 pixels (WxH).

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Background

An African lioness is showing her impressive large teeth. You see precisely in this close-up portrait photograph how long her teeth are, indeed prodigious. She is doing the Flehmen behavior. That means she is smelling the air, and she picks up a scent from another predator. Behind the lioness is dry yellowish grass, which blends in perfectly with the lioness showing her teeth. Her light tan/brown fur matches the dry grass behind the animal entirely.

The Flehmen Response

The lionesses behavior is called the Flehmen response. It occurs when the lion sniffs and smells the scent of another predator’s urine. After they smell the ground or object the urine is on, they will pull back their lips and teeth. That can look like the animal is threatening you, but it is not an aggressive act at all. Every cat has something called the Jacobson’s organ. It is sitting above the palate. By sniffing deeply and then pulling back their lips, they are, in fact, ‘testing’ the chemical content of the urine left behind by the earlier animal.

As you can see in the photograph of the lioness showing her teeth, she is using her Jacobson’s organ. Both males and females have a Flehmen response. However, it seems to be more relevant to males as they use it to determine whether females are entering an estrous cycle.

Lions have 30 permanent teeth. The front canine teeth are spaced in such a way so that they can slip between the cervical vertebrae of their prey. That will sever the spinal cord, and it is also beneficial for ripping pieces of meat away from the bone.

The lion, Panthera Leo, is in category vulnerable in the IUCN red list.

Explore more of the impressive predators or discover the extraordinary Arctic predator. All our photographs you can license or purchase as a photographic print.

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