They are not lions. A nearly 28,000-year-old female cave lion cub, nicknamed Sparta, may be the best-preserved Ice Age animal ever discovered. Sparta was found frozen in the permafrost of Siberia and even its whiskers, golden fur, sharp claws and internal organs are still intact. She is not alone: a male cub, nicknamed Boris, was also found, but Sparta was in better condition, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Quaternary.
Both cubs were less than two months old when they died.
Sparta and Boris are members of a species of big cats, Panthera spelaea, which is now extinct. Both were found by mammoth tusk hunters in 2017-2018 in Yakutia, in eastern Siberia. They were found only 49 feet (15 meters) apart and were originally thought to be siblings, but it turned out that Boris is 15,000 years older than Sparta – he is 43,448 years old and she is 28,000, according to the report.
While the magazine article was published in early August 2021, in 2019 the Siberian Times collected videos showing Sparta and Boris being carefully scrutinized by researchers.
How did the puppies die? The report notes that none of the bodies had tooth marks, so the predators likely did not kill them. The researchers’ best guess is that both cubs were left alone in the caves when their mothers went hunting, but then they encountered different destinations.
It is possible that Sparta’s mother went out to bring food and was somehow killed before she could return to feed her young.
‘(Sparta) died of starvation, “Albert Protopopov, one of the study’s authors, told The Siberian Times in 2019.” We wondered why she looked so skinny when they found her and then a CT scan of her internal organs showed that there was no fat. It was the most extreme stage of starvation. “
Even in death, Sparta’s claws remain sharp enough to prick the finger of one of the scientists examining her. CNN reports.
Boris could have died in a landslide.
“We found visible traces of internal injuries that we think could have been caused by rocks falling on him,” Protopopov told the newspaper.
Both cubs were mostly covered in golden brown fur, which could have turned light gray to serve as camouflage in the Siberian winter, had they grown up.
Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and another of the study’s authors, told CNN that the researchers hope to sequence Sparta’s DNA to learn more about the cave lion species and its history. .
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