In the beginning of 12 Monkeys, Cole's trip to the surface reveals a destroyed city in deep winter. There are no people there, only animals. Among those animals are birds (doves?), an owl, and a bear. Also among those animals are a lion, what seems to be a Madagascar hissing cockroach (whose habitable temperature is 75°F/24°C to 90°F/32°C), and a Nephila spider (a large spider that lives in tropical regions of the world). These are animals that do not live in the snow. Moreover, the lion and the cockroach are not hiding inside, but are out in the open. In fact, the lion is neither hunting nor huddling away from the cold (as a lion should, being an animal with little fat or fur to protect it against the cold), but is roaring on top of a building.

Have the creators ever commented on these hot climate animals appearing to be comfortable in what seems to be deep winter?

Edit: When Cole is accidentally sent back in time to 1990 and locked up in a mental hospital, he finds a similar spider there (and eats it). The hospital is in Baltimore, outside of the habitat range of these spiders.

Lion on a balcony in the snow The Madagascar hissing cockroach on a frosted surface Nephila spider on its web, with ice in the background

  • 3
    In the original script, there's no mention of it being winter/cold/snowing. Presumably the filmmakers decided to make it snowy (based on the fact that principal photography took place when it was actually snowy) after they'd designed the screenplay, then just never changed it.
    – Valorum
    Mar 15, 2020 at 16:38
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    Why do you think lions are hot weather animals? Historically, lions ranged all through Asia Minor, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Persia, Afghanistan and into India. Some pretty cold winter temps in some of those places!
    – elemtilas
    Mar 15, 2020 at 17:15
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    @elemtilas The historical presence of lions in Afghanistan is not confirmed. As for other historical habitats of the lion, the wikipedia page lists areas that are more closely associated with warm climates than with cold ones. Moreover, cold climate animals have more fur / fat than this lion (which, judging by the mane, is an African lion and not an Asiatic one).
    – Misha R
    Mar 15, 2020 at 17:47
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    @elemtilas But, regardless of zoological pedantry around lions, I think when you make a movie that has lions, hissing cockroaches, and tropical spiders surviving in a deep winter landscape, the it's reasonable to expect a bit of explanation.
    – Misha R
    Mar 15, 2020 at 17:50
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    I think the operative phrase in all of this is making a movie.
    – elemtilas
    Mar 15, 2020 at 21:45

1 Answer 1


Lions can quite happily survive in freezing conditions, especially if there is cover and a whole pride to share body heat with. It may be rare for it snow in their natural habitat, but it does happen. See here.

Cockroaches won't actually die until you get down to about -17 degrees centigrade (see here). At colder temperatures though, they do tend to go into a hibernated state. That said, if there is some sort of warm or warmer areas it could be traveling between two places. I'm not sure where those places would be in this scenario though. Near the lion pack maybe?

Then there is the Nephila spider. In this scenario, that thing should probably be dead.

The safe temperature zone for this species is 20° – 28°C, but will tolerate 8°– 30° for limited periods.

Quote from here.

It is possible that because this is all just above the underground bunker, that there is some form of ventilation pumping out hot air around this particular area. But I'd expect less snow on the ground that case.

So to sum up, lion and cockroach could at least possibly survive those conditions, but the spider is a case of movie magic.

  • While I think it's possible for a lion to survive in a cold desolate environment, the lion actually seems fine without cover or a nearby pack. That is the part I find odd. As for cockroaches, the Madagascar hissing cockroach is a fairly unusual variety of cockroach, and doesn't fare well in the cold. Pet guides for hissing cockroaches advise to keep them at temperatures no lower than 60F, preferably around 80. Your link had more to do with house cockroaches, such as the German cockroach shown in it.
    – Misha R
    Mar 17, 2020 at 18:49

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