Tuesday, August 13

The Debunker: Is the Lion the King of the Jungle?

by Ken Jennings

August 27, 1912 saw the first appearance of a new fictional hero: Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. “A crackerjack!” enthused the then-current issue of All-Story Magazine. “Zowie! but things happen!” In honor of the ape-man’s 101st birthday this month, Jeopardy! know-it-all Ken Jennings swings in on his vine to debunk four longstanding misconceptions about the jungles of the world. Ungawa!

Jungle Myth #2: The Lion is the King of the Jungle.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight, a wise man once said. Since the 19th century, breathless European prose has referred to Africa’s mighty lion as the “king of the jungle.” There’s only one problem with this: as a moment’s thought will reveal, lions don’t live in the jungle! They hunt on savanna, the open grasslands of central Africa. Occasional trees, yes, but jungle, no. By definition, savanna has no tree canopy.

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