We all know that lions are arrogant, haughty jerks. (OK, OK, I’m exaggerating a bit…behind my lion-bashing façade, I'm enthralled by those gorgeous creatures. Just don’t tell the hyenas.) Anyway, the King of Beasts does have a reputation for being a bit too high and mighty.
However, in this picture, he’s not sneering at us. Instead, he’s exhibiting something called the “flehmen response,” which helps animals detect and identify pheromones. Many African animals exhibit this response around particular scents, and you may even see it closer to home in your own dog or cat.
The crazy-looking lip curl helps draw molecules toward a sensory organ located inside the mouth (side note for bio-geeks: it's interesting that although this organ, the VNO, isn’t developed in humans, we do curl our upper lips similarly when we’re disgusted).
It’s possible these guys were hitting on us, since the flehmen response helps some animals – like lions - determine whether potential mates are receptive.
Dear lions: thanks for your interest, but don't waste your time courting me. And yes, I still think you're haughty.