University of Minnesota

Popular Bell Museum exhibit showcasing UMN lion research returns for a summer run

June 27, 2014

This summer the Bell Museum of Natural History is bringing back The Lion’s Mane - one of its most popular past exhibits - for a limited engagement. The exhibit launched six years ago and gave the public behind-the-scenes access into University of Minnesota research by Craig Packer and Peyton West.

The work of Packer and West centered on a simple question with surprising answers: Why does the lion have a mane? Lions are the only members of the cat family to have manes; does the “king of beasts” need his mane for protection, or is it a signal of power and fitness?

To test their hypotheses, the researchers devised a number of experiments - including one that put life-sized fake lions through a series of mane makeovers - and then observed the reactions of their live counterparts. How they reacted provided valuable insight that led the two to some fascinating answers.

Visitors to The Lion’s Mane will learn more about those answers, while getting up close with the test lion from the experiments. Play the “Lion Identification Game,” or hang out with authentic lion specimens that are on display. In addition, the exhibit features photo murals, videos, interactive stations and touchable objects.

Since its debut, The Lion’s Mane has traveled the country, spreading important knowledge about lion biology, behavior and field research to learners of all ages. The exhibit will be on display until Sept. 7, 2014.

The Bell Museum is part of the University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and strives to advance the quest to discover, document and understand life in its many forms and to inspire curiosity, delight and informed stewardship of the natural world. For details, visit

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