Perfectly Preserved Lion Cub Found Frozen In Siberia Is 28,000 Years-Old
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Experts say the lion, nicknamed Sparta, is the most well-preserved Ice Age animal ever discovered, with her teeth, skin, soft tissue and organs all mummified but intact.
Its fur is also matted with mud, but incredibly it's otherwise undamaged.
According to the team from the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, the cub was less than two months old when she died.
She was one of two cave lion cubs, who were originally thought to be siblings as they were discovered 49ft apart from one another.
However, the new study revealed that Sparta actually lived 15,000 later than the other cub, called Boris, who is believed to be 43,448 years old and was between one and two months old when he died.
Love Dalen, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Centre for Palaeogenetics and an author of the study, said in a press release: "Sparta is probably the best preserved Ice Age animal ever found, and is more or less undamaged apart from the fur being a bit ruffled. She even had the whiskers preserved.
"Boris is a bit more damaged, but still pretty good."
This CAVE LION cub is arguably the best preserved #iceage animal ever found!- Centre for Palaeogenetics (@CpgSthlm) August 4, 2021
It's name is Sparta.
In a paper published today with colleagues from :flag_ru: :flag_jp: & :flag_fr:, we use DNA & 14C to show that it's a female cub that died c 28,000 years ago.
Read more here:https://t.co/Vc2VI7VFfJ pic.twitter.com/NkXTFCvsyB
The study was published this week in the journal Quarternary, where the abstract explains: "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."
Researchers said the Sparta's fur was 'greyish to light brown', whereas Boris' fur was 'generally lighter, greyish yellowish'.
They said this means it is possible that light colouration 'prevailed with age' in cave lions, and was 'adaptive for nothern snow-covered landscapes'.
Dalen said the cubs may have been buried fairly instantly, judging from how well they have been preserved.
"Given their preservation they must have been buried very quickly. So maybe they died in a mudslide, or fell into a crack in the permafrost," Dalen explained.
"Permafrost forms large cracks due to seasonal thawing and freezing."