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Gustav Derkits said...

> I have read, but do not know it to be true, that even specialists
> cannot tell a lion from a tiger on the basis of the skeleton alone.
> Can anyone comment on this?

If skull material is available, yes, lions and tigers can be 
distinguished. Tigers have deeper lower jaws and (IIRC) far more 
retracted nasals. The patterns of foramina at the back of the 
skull also differ in the two species. The presence of tiger-like 
features in _Panthera atrox_ has led to suggestions that it might 
have been a 'tiger' more than a 'lion' though, confusingly, it is 
also so similar in other features to _P. spelaea_, the Eurasian 'cave 
lion', that it has been regarded as part of the same species.. and, 
to muddle things even more, _P. spelaea_ is difficult to distinguish 
from _P. leo_ and has at times been regarded as the same species as 
that, too. Much of this mess was sorted out in a recent phd thesis - 
I don't know what the current status of this work (viz, publication) 
is (it is discussed in Turner and Anton's _Big Cats and Their Fossil 
Relatives_). BTW, it has now also been established that _P. tigris_ 
invaded N. America during the Pleistocene.

"DARREN NAISH watches the birdie and discovers his not-so-sweet 
??? Darren Naish is a cousin to birdies??