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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.

Zoos are cooperating worldwide in breeding programs for the endangered Asiatic lions.

The liger is a cross between a male lion and a tigress.

Because the growth-inhibiting gene from the female tiger mother is absent, the growth-promoting gene passed on by the male lion father is unimpeded by a regulating gene and the resulting ligers grow far larger than either parent.

Cultural depictions of lions are known from the Upper Paleolithic period, 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.

Based on morphology of 58 lion skulls in three European museums, the subspecies krugeri, nubica, persica, and senegalensis were assessed distinct; but bleyenberghi overlapped with senegalensis and krugeri. Early phylogenetic research was focused on lions from eastern and southern parts of Africa, and already showed that they can possibly be divided in two main clades: one to the west of the Great Rift Valley and the other to the east.

Following Carl Linnaeus's first descriptions of the species, 26 lion specimens were described and proposed as subspecies between the mid 18th and mid 20th centuries, of which 11 were recognised as valid in 2005.

They were distinguished on the basis of appearance, size and colour of mane.

Nonetheless, they might carry genes that are extinct in the wild, and might be therefore important to maintain overall genetic variability of the lion. In North Africa, lions are regionally extinct in the wild due to excessive hunting; the last known Barbary lion was killed in Morocco in 1942.

In 2017, the Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group assigned the lion populations in Asia and West, Central and North Africa to P. Small groups of lions may have survived until the 1960s.

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