A cave lion cub found in Siberia !
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Two years after the discovery of two cave lion cubs in Yakutia, a new specimen of this species, extinct more than 10,000 years ago, has been found. It is "perfectly preserved", said paleontologists, who do not rule out the possibility of cloning it.
The Siberian Times has published the first pictures of a cave lion cub found in September 2017 on the shore of the Tirekhtykh River in Yakutia by a local resident. Coming from the permafrost where it has remained out of sight, weather and light for several tens of thousands of years, the young 45cm long lion is surprisingly well preserved 🦴. It's a perfectly preserved lion cub, all the limbs have survived," said one of the paleontologists who were able to examine it. There are no signs of external wounds on the skin. »
Cave lion cub : perfectly preserved.
According to the researchers, the animal was between a month and a half and two months old when it died. That was probably between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago. They do not know at this time the reason for its death or its sex.
The lion cub had its head on its right front leg when it died. He spent between 20,000 and 50,000 years buried in the permafrost in Yakutsk until the flood of a river brought him to light.
This discovery is immediately reminiscent of the discovery in 2015, still in the same region, of two other cave lion cubs (Panthera leo spelaea). They were the first. Initially dated at 12,000 years old, the two felines would have rather perished between 25,000 and 55,000 years old. But with the new one, not yet named, "the degree of conservation is even better," said Albert Protopopov, who was able to conduct research on the two young lions 🦁.
Bringing the cave lion back to life.
Fossils of this species, which lived in the steppes of Europe and Siberia until about 10,000 years ago, are quite rare. The discovery of these bodies in an excellent state of preservation will therefore enable researchers to take a quantum leap forward in the knowledge of these animals. As the largest predator during the last two ice ages, the cave lion frightened as much as it fascinated our prehistoric ancestors, who must have often come across it, as evidenced by the sculptures and also the paintings that have been found.
In 2015, given the quality of the samples, "well preserved soft tissue" paleontologists believed it would be possible to clone them, promising to say more about their progress two to three years later 👀. With this new specimen, the question is once again raised, not without controversy, as are the planned cloning projects for extinct mammoths and other woolly rhinos. Should an extinct species be resurrected ?
Young cave lions mummified in the frozen soil of Russia.
In Siberia, researchers have unearthed from the permafrost two cave lion cubs in an exceptionally well-preserved state, along with their fur. This is the first time that these felines, which were known only from rare fossils and from representations in cave frescoes such as those at Lascaux or Chauvet-Pont d'Arc, have been discovered in the flesh.
The news appeared in the Siberian Times newspaper while waiting for a publication in a scientific journal. Researchers from the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia, north-eastern Siberia) describe the discovery of several animals in the frozen subsoil (permafrost), including a small woolly mammoth called Yuka.
This region has provided for several years very well preserved animal remains, the ages of which can be counted in tens of thousands of years. Two baby mammoths, Liouba and Khroma, became famous in 2014 🐘. Last September, the same newspaper published exceptional images of a woolly rhinoceros, baby and named Sasha, dated 34,000 years ago. This time, the find is unique: two little cave lion cubs, Panthera spelaea.
One of the two cave lion cubs discovered in the permafrost in Yakutia. The body, including the fur, is remarkably well preserved. Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic.
The cave lion, an extinct big cat...
This large feline inhabited the northern regions of Europe and Asia among bison, reindeer and mammoths; fossils have also been found in Alaska. This species, whose oldest fossils date back 300,000 years (middle Pleistocene) and which completely disappeared more than 10,000 years ago, is very poorly known. It seems closer to the lion than the tiger, but its relationship to the present species is not understood and the possibility of making it a subspecies of the lion, Panthera leo spelaea, is still being discussed.
Fossils are rare and, to study it, paleontologists also turn to the first naturalists, contemporaries of these animals, who drew the fauna of the time on the cave walls.
A fresco in the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave showing a herd of buffalo hunted by cave lions. Jean Clottes
The cave lion inspired cave art.
Some rather summary representations are indeed present at the very bottom of the Lascaux cave and others, much more elaborate, are part of superb frescoes in the cave of Chauvet-Pont d'Arc. The image shown in this article, taken by the prehistorian Jean Clottes, bears witness to this.
In these drawings, the cave lion appears with more or less sharp details, such as, in Chauvet, a bushy tail, a solid-coloured coat, without stripes, thus evoking the lion more than the tiger, but, it seems, an absent or little mane in the males.
The statuette known as the lion-man, 30 cm high and discovered in 1939 in the cave of Hohlenstein-Stadel (Baden-Württemberg, Germany), in several pieces. Dating back 32,000 years, it represents a man wearing a lion's (or lioness') head from the caves. JDuckeck, DP
These cubs have a story to tell about their species.
The dating of these two Yakutia lion cubs is not specified, the authors indicating a minimum age of 10,000 years. These scientists having chosen to present their discovery immediately in a newspaper for the general public, the details are missing and we are promised for the end of November.
The quality of the preservation of the tissues will surely allow a DNA analysis, able to specify the phylogeny of the species. Stomach contents will be able to give information on food, especially if these young were weaned. The coat is very well preserved and this is the first time it has been seen. However, these two pups were very young and it is not at all certain that the coat is similar to that of the adult. Will they help us to better understand the reasons for the extinction of this species, which is attributed to a warming climate that has made the usual prey of these felines, especially reindeer, more scarce ?
Ben - Lion Republic writer.