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The cave lion cub is the best preserved animal from the Ice Age

The cave lion cub is the best preserved animal from the Ice Age

A nearly 28,000-year-old cave lion cub has been found frozen in the Siberian permafrost, so preserved that you can still pick every hair.

More and more ancient remains are being found

Swedish researchers say the cub, nicknamed Sparta, is one of the best-preserved Ice Age animals ever. Ice embalming his teeth, skin and soft tissues. Moreover, even his organs remained intact.
Sparta is one of a group of cave lion cubs (Panthera spelaea) found buried in the permafrost of Yakutia in northeastern Russia.

The animal was discovered in 2018 by local resident Boris Bereznev, who was looking for ancient mammoth teeth in the tundra.

Saparta is found on the banks of the Semyuelyakh River in eastern SiberiaSource: Love Dalén

With the hunting and trade of wild game increasingly restricted, “fang hunters” like Bereznev began to hunt for ancient ivory in the icy north. But as the permafrost weakens climate change and the tusk hunting season lengthens, more and more ancient remains are being found—and not just of the woolly mammoth. In recent years, Siberians have “pulled” rhinos, wolves, brown bears, horses, reindeer and bison from the permafrost, and some of their carcasses can be 40,000 years old.

They found visible signs of internal damage that could have been caused by falling rocksSource: The Siberian Times /

the Quadruple According to a study published in a scientific journal, it is evident that this icy steppe was once home to many large mammals. In fact A year before Berezhnev found Sparta near the Semyuelyak River, he also came across the carcass of another cave lion just 15 meters away.

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This specimen, named Boris, showed slightly more damage, possibly from the collapse of the permafrost cave, but was still remarkably intact.

In many ways, they are strikingly similar to modern lions

Later analysis of the bodies was assisted by Swedish researchers, who assumed that Boris and Sparta were about a month or two old at the time of their destruction. Despite their physical proximity and similar appearance, Boris can be considered older by about 15,000 years, plus or minus a few centuries.
What little science knows about cave lions today comes mostly from fossils, footprints, and ancient cave drawings.



According to experts, mummified corpses found in permafrost are among the best evidence of their existence. Their frozen carcasses are strikingly similar to modern lions in many ways, except they are much larger and have much warmer fur. But it seems One of the most recognizable traits of African lions, however, cave lions lack acknowledgment.

This is corroborated by contemporary artifacts, which indicate that cave lions rarely wore manes, or if they did, they were very sparse and hardly visible. For example, some Ice Age paintings show dark patterns on the faces of cave lions, but it is not yet clear what this could represent.

That is why a mane was needed

Both Boris and Sparta were young cave lions, which scientists say means it’s hard to know how their fur evolved as they became adults. Researchers believe that Apart from some darker coloring behind their ears, they are mostly covered in brown fur. They believe that if the cubs had a chance to grow up, their fur would probably have changed to a lighter gray to help them camouflage more easily in the cold Siberian Arctic. The presence of the man is also important because it can reveal the social structure of cave lions. For example, whether they live alone or in groups with a clear hierarchy.

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About 26,000 years ago, the mother of Sparta left him in a cave and went hunting or was killed, leaving the little cub without food.Source: SiberianTimes

Scientists still debate whether Pleistocene cave lions roamed the steppes of Siberia alone or in groups like modern African lions.

As the researchers point out, in France’s Chauvet Cave, there is a particular Ice Age painting depicting nearly a dozen cave lions, including both males and females, hunting bison.
Group hunting may be more efficient than solitary foraging when prey is large and many of these types of prey may be available in the cave lion ecosystem. – The researchers wrote in their previously published study that A ScienceAlert Scientific portal on the Internet. – For example, mammoths and rhinos were such, but only when they had no other available prey.

In addition, they added, large packs would have helped protect prey from “competition” and the cubs and young from predators.

Cave lions will also be cloned

However, this is all just speculation for now. Although experts have discovered some surprisingly healthy and intact cave lions in recent years, they still don’t have enough information about these extinct predators to draw any conclusions about their social structure.
Maybe one day all this will change. Scientists hope that in the future, they will discover another cave lion that could help them learn something about their long-lost lives. Or maybe one day it will be possible to “bring” these animals back to life.

Lion cub resting between the branches of a treeSource: Alexander Brachkovsky

There is a very real chance that we could recreate cave lions, and that would be a much easier task than cloning woolly mammoths. – noted paleontologist Albert Protopopov, one of the authors of the study Siberian Times for the sheet.

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Some scientists think the possibility of cloning woolly mammoths is very real, but cave lions are a much younger species. Protopopov has already made a proposal in this regard: according to this Their copies could be supplemented with some genes from the genes of modern African lions, making the task somewhat easier.

Obviously, this is a controversial idea, so its implementation is probably still a matter of the future. For now, the next step is to fully sequence the genomes of Sparta and Boris. Then, professionals can figure out what to do with the information they’ve collected.

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