Two extinct Eurasian cave lion cubs have been recovered from permafrost on the bank of the Uyandina River, Siberia. Flooding and landslides along the river’s banks in the summer of 2015 revealed an ice lens in which the cubs’ remains were spotted. They are thought to have been only a week or two old at death, as their baby teeth had not yet erupted. But they were the size of full-grown domestic cats.
“This find, beyond any doubt, is sensational,” said Dr Albert Protopopov, head of the mammoth fauna studies department of the Yakutian Academy of Sciences. The cubs are “complete with all their body parts: fur, ears, soft tissue and even whiskers.” They are, he claimed, unique in the world, the most complete remains of cave lions ever found. “Possibly, the cubs died in a hole, in a landslide, and afterwards this site was never affected by weather,” said the academic. “This is how we explain such unique preservation of the animals.”1 A South Korean research team have taken samples from one of the exquisitely preserved cubs in the hope of cloning the animal.2
No additional felines needed on the Ark
The Eurasian cave lion, Panthera spelaea, about the size of a modern-day Siberian tiger, once roamed everywhere from the British Isles to the Yukon in Canada. Until now, what was known about cave lions came from cave art, such as their images which adorn the Chauvet Cave in France, from detailed carvings, and from their bones. These were mostly located in caves, hence their name.
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