28,000-year-old well-preserved lion cub discovered in Siberia

She is well preserved enough that we can see her whiskers.
Nergis Firtina
Cave lion Sparta.
Cave lion Sparta.

Centre for Paleogenetics 

The approximately 28,000-year-old cave lion cub Sparta discovered in Siberia shocked researchers with her well-preserved body.

As reported by ScienceAlert, Sparta is one of the most well-preserved Ice Age creatures ever found. The ice has mummified everything of her soft tissue, including her skin, teeth, and skin. Even her organs are still there, according to the researchers.

The findings were published in Quarternary.

She was found in 2018

Sparta was discovered in 2018 by a local Yakutian, Boris Berezhnev, who was looking for ancient mammoth tusks among the tundra. He also spotted another cave lion named Boris, 49 feet (15 meters) away a year before discovering Sparta next to the Semyuelyakh River. The damage to this one, known as Boris, may have been slightly greater due to the collapse of its permafrost cave, but it was still surprisingly intact.

Both Sparta and Boris are thought to be between one and two months old, according to Swedish researchers who later assisted with the analysis of the carcasses. Boris is believed to be about 15,000 years older, give or take a few centuries, despite the fact that they are close in the vicinity and have similar physical characteristics.

According to scientists, if the cubs had the chance to mature, their fur would have likely developed into a lighter shade of gray to help them blend in with the frigid Siberian Arctic.

Whether cave lions roamed the steppes of Siberia on their own during the Ice Age is still up for debate among scientists. One particular Ice Age painting in France's Chauvet cave shows a number of cave lions, both male and female, engaged in the process of hunting bison, as per ScienceAlert.

The researchers stated that maybe one day, they will be able to clone lions, which will be easier than mammoths.

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Study abstract:

A preliminary description is presented of the well-preserved frozen mummies of two cubs of the extinct cave lion Panthera spelaea (finds of 2017–2018, Semyuelyakh River, Yakutia, eastern Siberia, Russia). The fossil lion cubs were found in close proximity, but they do not belong to the same litter, since their radiocarbon ages differ: the female (named ‘Sparta’) was dated to 27,962 ± 109 uncal years BP, and the male (named ‘Boris’) was dated to 43,448 ± 389 uncal years BP. The lion cubs have similar individual ages, 1–2 months. The general tone of the colour of the fur coat of Sparta is greyish to light brown, whereas, in Boris, the fur is generally lighter, greyish yellowish. It is, therefore, possible that light colouration prevailed with age in cave lions and was adaptive for northern snow-covered landscapes. The article discusses the results of computed tomography of cubs of the cave lion, the possible reasons for their death, and the peculiarities of their existence in the Siberian Arctic.