Extinct lion cubs found: 10,000-Year-Old Lion Cubs

Published: October 28, 2015

Extinct lion cubs found: 10,000-Year-Old Lion Cubs, The remains of amazingly well-preserved cave lion cubs dating back more than 10,000 years have been unearthed in icy Siberia – and one has a face that looks as if it could be sleeping. The discovery was made in the Sakha Republic, otherwise known as Yakutia, this summer and scientists believe the two ‘sensational’ cubs are the best preserved ever found.

It is hoped the cubs will shed light on why the cave lion died out, especially as the ferocious cat had few predators and was not as prone to getting stuck in swamps as mammoths, for example.

The Academy of Science of Yakutia will formerly introduce the cubs at a press conference late next month, along with other Ice Age animals preserved in the region, which is the largest and coldest in Russia, The Siberian Times reported.

Cave lions, Panthera spelaea (Goldfuss) roamed Siberia more than 10,000 years ago in the Ice Age before they became extinct, meaning the cubs are at least this old. It’s hoped their age will be revealed next month.

They are close relatives of the modern lion.

The European or Eurasian cave lion is an extinct species of lion, known from fossils and prehistoric art.

It’s most closely related to the modern lion and ranged from Europe to Alaska over the Bering land bridge until the late Pleistocene, around 10,000 years ago.

An adult European cave lion is thought to have measured 3.9ft (1.2metres) tall and 6.9ft (2.1metres) in length without its tail, based on a skeleton found in Germany.

This means it was a similar size to a modern lion.

It’s thought the lions probably hunted larger herbivorous animals of their time, including horses, deer, reindeer, bison and even injured old or young mammoths.

No-one knows why the lions became extinct, but one suggestion is the population of cave bears and deer – one source of prey – caused them to die out.

The predators lived during Middle and Late Pleistocene times on the Eurasian continent, which stretched from the UK to Chukotka in East Russia, connected by the Bering land bridge.

Cave lion fossils have also been found in Alaska and Canada.

Remains are rare, making the recent find particularly exceptional, and only fragments of carcasses and skeletons have been found before.

The discovery will give scientists a better idea of what the animals that once roamed Yakutia looked like.

Until now, their impressions were based on a handful of skulls, teeth and bones found in the freezing region.

Careful study of the remains may help explain why prehistoric cave lions became extinct.

One theory is that a decline in the population of cave bears and deer caused them to die out.

A source close to the discovery told the paper: ‘The find is sensational, no doubt’.

It remains to be seen whether any blood or genetic material will be able to be collected from the remains, which would raise the tantalising possibility that cave lions could be ‘brought back to life’.

Experts at the press conference next month will also talk about the famous woolly mammoth Yuka, ‘Oimyakon’ mammoth, a Kolyma woolly rhinoceros and Yukagir bison and horses.


Scientists have revealed that the remains of the only baby woolly rhinoceros ever found are more than three times older than previously believed.

Called Sasha, the well-preserved calf was discovered preserved in permafrost in the far north of Siberia last year.

Russian experts had initially believed the carcass dated back 10,000 years, but scientists last month announced after an autopsy that it is in fact 34,000 years old.

A local hunter found the infant woolly rhino in a ravine by a stream in Russia’s largest and coldest region, the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, in September 2014. He had initially thought the remains belonged to a reindeer.

Scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz, are analysing the animal’s DNA, while academics from the universities of Bristol and Leeds will also examine the prehistoric calf which was aged around 18 months when it died, analysing the DNA of tiny fragments of food found in its teeth.

The Russians leading the research say the infant woolly rhino probably died from drowning 34,000 years ago, reported The Siberian Times, which revealed images and video of the unprecedented autopsy, which took place in Yakutsk.

Dr Albert Protopopov, head of the Department of Mammoth Fauna Studies, said: ‘The nasal passages of the rhinoceros were clogged with mud, so that we can say that most likely it drowned.’

He added: ‘The DNA of the woolly rhino is poorly studied indeed. This find gives us the opportunity to compare the woolly rhino with the modern rhinos and and find out how far they are from each other on the evolutionary path.’

Not only is Sasha the only infant woolly rhino ever found, it is considered the best-preserved in the world with front and rear legs, and almost entire skin, intact.


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