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​Perfectly Preserved Lion Cub Found Frozen In Siberia Is 28,000 Years-Old

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​Perfectly Preserved Lion Cub Found Frozen In Siberia Is 28,000 Years-Old

A perfectly preserved lion cub found frozen in Siberia has been confirmed as being a not-too-youthful 28,000 years old, a new study has revealed.

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.

3D image of Sparta, sectioned to show the inside structure - with the green arrow showing the location of the uterus-like organ. Credit: Centre for Palaeogenetics
3D image of Sparta, sectioned to show the inside structure - with the green arrow showing the location of the uterus-like organ. Credit: Centre for Palaeogenetics
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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.

Sparta's skull; Boris's skull; and Sparta's mandible. Credit: Centre for Palaeogenetics
Sparta's skull; Boris's skull; and Sparta's mandible. Credit: Centre for Palaeogenetics
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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."

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."

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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'.

Figure a) is Sparta, while figure b) is Boris. Credit: Centre for Palaeogenetics
Figure a) is Sparta, while figure b) is Boris. Credit: Centre for Palaeogenetics

Dalen said the cubs may have been buried fairly instantly, judging from how well they have been preserved.

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"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."

Featured Image Credit: Centre for Palaeogenetics

Topics: World News, News, Animals, Lion

Jess Hardiman
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