Perfectly preserved cave lion found in Siberian permafrost – Eye on the Arctic – .

Perfectly preserved cave lion found in Siberian permafrost – Eye on the Arctic – .

The cave lion nicknamed Sparta died 28,000 years ago, but was perfectly preserved with its fur, whiskers and organs intact. (I love Dalen)

‘Sparta’ was probably 1 or 2 months old when she died 28,000 years ago

Scientists have unveiled an extraordinary discovery: a lion cub found in the Arctic that may be the best-preserved Ice Age animal ever found.

The small female, nicknamed Sparta, was found by a local resident named Boris Berezhnev in 2018 along the Semyuelyakh River in Russia. Berezhnev was looking for mammoth tusks, which he had a license to collect.

“Sparta is probably the best-preserved ice age animal ever found and is more or less intact, aside from the slightly ruffled fur,” said Love Dalén, co-author of a new study on the find, in a Friday press release from Stockholm University. “She even kept the mustaches. ”

Sparta, estimated to have died 28,000 years ago, was one of two lion cubs described in the study, published this week in the journal Quarternary.

The other was a small male found by Berezhnev in 2017, just 15 meters from Sparta. At first, researchers who recovered the cubs from the Siberian permafrost thought they were siblings, but the young male, named Boris, turned out to be much older – having died 43,000 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating.

“Boris is a little more damaged, but still quite good,” said Dalén, professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm.

The researchers estimated, based on the cubs’ tooth development, that they were both between one and two months old when they died. But they were small compared to African lion cubs with a similar level of dental development, suggesting that their teeth grew faster.

“This may be due to the short periods of hot weather [and] harsher winters in northern latitudes, meaning cubs had to grow faster and be able to eat meat at a younger age, ”the researchers wrote.

Fur color suitable for snowy landscapes

Sparta’s fur was greyish to light brown, and Boris’s was greyish-yellow, without the spots that African lion cubs have. The researchers suggested that the color of the light was suitable for snowy landscapes. They also had a thick undercoat that African lion cubs do not have, which seemed to be adapted to a cold climate.

Their preservation suggested they must have been buried quickly, possibly in a mudslide, suggested Dalén.

The study was led by Gennady Boeskorov of the Institute of Diamond and Precious Metals Geology of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and included other researchers from Russia, France, Sweden, United Kingdom and Japan.

During the last ice age, cave lions were a common predator in northern Eurasia and North America, including Canada. In fact, the first genome of the cave lion came from a bone in the Yukon. The species became extinct about 14,000 years ago.

Related stories from the north:

Canada: Seabirds and their Vulnerability to Global Warming: Q&A with Researcher Emily Choy, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Oral histories reveal the impact of climate change on nomadic life in the Russian Arctic, study finds Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sweden to lead major Arctic expedition, Radio Sweden

United States: Climate change worsens water scarcity in rural Alaska, study finds Eye on the Arctic


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