A pair of cave lion cubs were recently found in Siberia, preserved in almost perfect condition. Siberia is known for its amazing finds such as these, and many extinct animals have turned up in well preserved conditions in the icy permafrost region.
Thought to be at least 10,000 years old, the lions were found earlier this summer in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic of Siberia, famed for many other striking discoveries of ice age animals. The creatures lived during the Pleistocene, when the world was gripped by repeated ice ages as glaciers expanded and retracted. All that had been previously found of cave lions in the area were some skulls and fragments of teeth and bones.
The lions in question – easily the best preserved ever discovered – are thought to be Eurasian cave lions (Panthera spelaea), which were among the largest species of lions ever to have lived, with a shoulder height of 1.2 meters (3.9 feet). They would have stalked the grasslands, taking down reindeer, horses, and possibly even young mammoths with which they shared the landscape. Why they disappeared is a little less certain, but perhaps as their prey species dwindled, due to a combination of climate change and human hunting, they were no longer able to survive in the cold north of Europe.
The cubs have undergone a preliminary study, and the results will be presented at the end of November in the Siberian town of Yakutia to both national and international press. They will be shown along with a whole host of other specimens dug out of the permafrost in the region, including mammoths, woolly rhinos and ancient bison. While they have announced that the specimens are free of certain microbial infections, such as deadly anthrax, all other significant details and pictures of the finds are being closely guarded.
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