These 10,000-Year-Old Cave Lion Cubs Were Preserved with Fur and Skin Intact
Cave lion illustration. Image: Heinrich Harder
The frozen carcasses of two cave lion cubs unearthed in Siberia are the "the best preserved ever seen in the world," reports the Siberian Times. Though these cubs died at least 10,000 years ago, their skin and fur have barely decayed thanks to their interment in the frigid Siberian permafrost.
The remains were found over the summer by paleontologists based out of the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia, who announced the discovery on Monday. A public presentation of the lions is scheduled for November 17 in Yakutsk, famed for being the world's coldest city, where the Academy is based.
The remains of other exceptionally preserved extinct animals will also be showcased at the presentation. Among them will be "Yuka," a woolly mammoth specimen with a mummified brain, as well as samples of bison, woolly rhinos, horses, and other animals whose bodies have survived in spectacular condition due to the region's Arctic temperatures.
Up until this point, only bones and tracks from this species of extinct big cat (Panthera leo spelaea), have been recovered, so paleontologists stand to learn a lot more about these ancient prowlers from the two cubs.
These lions had an extraordinary large range in their prime, stretching all the way from the British Isles to the Yukon region of Canada. Scientists think they were about 25 percent bigger than modern lions, and indeed, they certainly loomed large in the imaginations of the humans who shared their turf.
Early peoples across Europe celebrated these animals in many cave paintings, carvings, and clay figurines, and there is evidence that cave lions were popular as subjects of zoomorphic ritual worship.
It seems that humans, be they Paleolithic or millennial, simply can't help but love cats. The newly discovered cubs should help fill out the feline family tree, and reconstruct the lives and world of this iconic Ice Age predator.