An international team of scientists claims to have found in Siberia, under a layer of permafrost, the extremely well-preserved body of a baby cave lion cub – so well that even its internal organs remained intact, NBC News reported.
Scientists call lion cub Sparta, he was found in 2018 in Yakutia. This region is part of the permafrost zone, so that under the earth’s crust the remains of living beings can be stored for thousands of years almost unchanged. The age of the lion cub is estimated at about 28,000 years.
“As far as I know, these are the best-preserved remains of an ice age animal ever found. Sparta’s condition is almost perfect,” said Lov Dalen, co-author of the study at the Center for Paleogenetics at Stockholm University.
The cub has preserved teeth, skin and soft tissues – even internal organs. In 15 meters from Sparta in 2017 they found a baby male cave lion called Boris. His body is also well preserved, but not as much as in Sparta, and his age is almost 44 thousand years.
Although both lions are well preserved, on each of them found traces of blows to the skull. According to Dalen, the animals probably died in a landslide or fell.
“In permafrost, seasonal melting and freezing cause large faults,” says Dalen.
Both Sparta and Boris died, apparently, at the age of a month or two, scientists say. Their study could shed light on cave lions – a species that was common in the cool regions of Eurasia during the ice age and became extinct about ten thousand years ago.
“The find itself is unique, no other has been found in Yakutia. Perhaps we hope that some part of breast milk has been preserved. Because if we find it, we will understand what their mother ate,” said co-author Valery Plotnikov.
Scientists now hope to sequence the genome of the cave lion, using the biological material of Sparta and Boris, and learn more about how these animals lived.