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The Asiatic lion persica was the most distinctive, and the Cape lion had characteristics allying it more with P. Based on recent genetic studies, the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group has provisionally proposed to assign the lions occurring in Asia and West, Central and North Africa to the subspecies Panthera leo leo and the lions inhabiting South and East Africa to the subspecies Panthera leo melanochaita. The majority of lions kept in zoos are hybrids of different subspecies. Conversely, Per Christiansen found that using skull morphology allowed him to identify the subspecies krugeri, nubica, persica, and senegalensis, while there was overlap between bleyenberghi with senegalensis and krugeri. He had analysed 58 lion skulls in three European museums. Fish and Wildlife Service has followed this revised taxonomic classification, as being based on "the best available scientific and commercial information", in listing these two subspecies as, respectively, endangered and threatened. Studies from 20 concluded that the jaguar is a sister species to the lion and the leopard is a sister taxon to the jaguar/lion clade It appeared in the fossil record in Europe for the first time 700,000 years ago with the subspecies Panthera leo fossilis at Isernia in Italy. The lion's closest relatives are the other species of the genus Panthera: the tiger, the snow leopard, the jaguar, and the leopard.
Sleeping mainly during the day, lions are active primarily at night (nocturnal), although sometimes at twilight (crepuscular).
Because these characteristics are very insignificant and show a high individual variability, most of these forms were probably not true subspecies, especially as they were often based upon zoo material of unknown origin that may have had "striking, but abnormal" morphological characteristics. persica) as a subspecies is generally accepted, the systematic relationships among African lions are still not completely resolved.
Traditionally, 12 recent subspecies of lion were recognised, distinguished by mane appearance, size, and distribution.
Nonetheless, they might carry genes that are extinct in the wild, and might be therefore important to maintain overall genetic variability of the lion.
Approximately 77% of the captive lions registered by the International Species Information System are of unknown origin.