Wednesday, Feb 28 2024
All Cities
Choose Your City
'Today Siberia is a vast region of bustling metropolises and magnificent landscapes'

Tragic truth about two frozen 55,000 year old cave lion cubs is revealed by scientists

By 0 and 0 and 0
01 December 2017


'The latest lion cub is unique in that it has a completely preserved hairline.' Picture: The Siberian Times

Scientists have revealed the shocking truth about the two cubs Uyan and Dina found in Yakutia in 2015 which could be used in a Jurassic Park-style experiment to revive the lost species. 

Research on the unique sibling pair has been conducted in Japan, the US and Germany, said Dr Albert Protopopov, head of the department for the study of mammoth fauna, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

Hopes had been high that the little lions, members of a species that were once the largest big cats on the planet, had traces of mother's milk in their well preserved stomachs. 

But it is now established that the tiny animals, pictured here, died before getting the opportunity to feed from their mother. 

Frozen cave lions

Frozen cave lions

Frozen cave lion cubs

Frozen lion cub

Frozen cave lions

It is now established that the tiny animals, pictured here, died before getting the opportunity to feed from their mother. Picture: The Siberian Times

It raises the possibility that they were abandoned at birth in Pleistocene times. Or that the cubs perished because their mother died.

Another possibility is that the prehistoric kittens were buried perhaps in a landslide. Certainly, specks of soil have been found in their food tracts, Dr Protopopov. 

'We examined and measured the lions, recently conducting tomographic studies.

'At first we thought that they were two or three weeks old, but now we are inclined to think that they are only one or two days old - they died soon after birth. 

'When the Japanese performed a tomography scan, it became clear that their stomachs were empty. They did not even have time to try their mother's milk.

Dr Albert Protopopov

Dr Albert Protopopov, head of the department for the study of mammoth fauna, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Picture: The Siberian Times

'Most likely they were buried by soil, as there are soil particles in their food tract.'

Another older cub, found this year and revealed to the world last month, shows another intriguing truth about this extinct species. 

This cub died at the age of between one and two months old up to 50,000 years ago on the bank of Tirekhtykh River, in the Abyisky district of Yakutia.

Analysis is only now beginning on it, but the cub's colouring indicates that the species - known until these discoveries only by skeletons was an unexpected colour compared with modern-day big cats. 

'The latest lion cub is unique in that it has a completely preserved hairline,' he said. 

'And if the kittens found two years ago were covered in a cub fluff two years ago, this new one has a thick and beautiful hair, and there are spinous hairs. 

New cave lion cub

Frozen cave lion cub

Frozen cave lion cub

Frozen cave lion cub

Excited scientists unveiled the discovery - its facial features clearly visible - in Yakutsk today. Picture: Anastasiya Koryakina

'We will finally be able to find out what the cave lions really looked like. This opportunity was not previously available, because we found only skeletal remains.'

And their colour?

'Most likely they were smoky grey. Previously, scientists judged the look of the lions from the drawings ancient man left in caves.'

Indeed, this gave rise to a misnomer about this species, whose bones were also found in caves. In fact, the animals lived in the open spaces of Eurasia. 

'Ancient people drew with ocher, so they could not reliably display shades, colours. And it is interesting that there is not a single drawing on which the cave lion would be depicted with a mane.'

Earlier examination of Uyan and Dina indicates that they had shorter tails than modern lions. 

Another intriguing fact about the cave lions is that they appear to have much in common with tigers as well as lions.

Cave lions drawing

Panel of the Lions in Chauvet Cave. Picture: John Robinson

'Some scientists believe that morphologically cave lions are close not only to modern African lions, but also tigers,' he said. 'This opinion, for example, was held by the Soviet paleontologist Nikolai Vereshchagin.

'He called them 'tigerlions'.'

Cave lions - Panthera spelaea (Goldfuss) - lived during Middle and Late Pleistocene times from Britain to the Chukotka in the extreme east of Russia.

They also roamed Alaska and northwestern Canada. Scientists have predicted that the carcass finds will assist in reviving the extinct species in future. 

Comments (13)

It is very calming feeling to see these frozen specimens. It almost takes us 12000 years back when these animals were actually roamed across earth
22/10/2020 00:24
Fascinating. Would love to see the revival of this species.
Hallie Scott Kline, Saint Clair, Missouri, USA
12/07/2020 07:56
I would love to see these miracles alive. The way they eat, walk, run. Behaviours, mating, parenting, sleeping. Packs or solitary animals. We could learn better about what to do to continue our existing species. And replenishing animals that once kept siberia frozen lands healthy could be again! To look into the eyes of these beautiful creatures would be like looking into times lost. And a chance to fix mistakes. I think human hunting large veggie eaters starved out these beasts. We broke it, now lets fix it!
Norma binion, Onalaska, usa
09/03/2019 08:01
What a fantastic find. And if bringing back the mammoth could help keep the Siberian permafrost frozen then what's unethical about it? We have the knowledge and technology so why not use it? It would be unethical not to.
Kevin Ackerman, Cardiff, UK
04/03/2019 14:07
Long since extinct, It's very touching to see these young cubs.
Rick Bachman, Fort Lauderdale, FL, US
22/12/2018 13:59
Comparing cloning to radioactive accidents is itself unethical, the comments are fake news by some non scientist
Bill, Canada
21/12/2018 03:54
Reviving a prehistoric animal of any kind is completely unethical ... mad science run amok. Who knows what unforeseen issues are lurking. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. We already have scientific "genius" leading to disasters the numbnuts did not think through ... Chernobyl ... Fukishima?
erica sahara, usa
02/09/2018 12:27
To bring back the mammoth species or the species discussed in this article would be one of Mankind's greatest sins ever. Besides the fact that nothing in today's world is what these animals were designed to live in such as oxygen levels pollution and ton of other factors, these animals would spend a lifetime being poked and prodded and Laboratories and tortured for no good reason or human gain you can observe them in their natural habitat and way of life in a laboratory. Humans have got to understand we are not God for a very good reason. And we need to stop trying to play God.
Sheila (wildlife rehabilitator for 22+ yrs), Snohomish Wa USA
29/07/2018 03:29
I would love to see the cave bear be revived, and then ,bite the scientific clown in the ass that woke him up! Hay that will revive you.
Steven peat, Albany ny
17/03/2018 01:03
Stan Flouride s comments seconded, what would be the point of reviving them when animals of today are fast going extinct because of human exposure , hunting and environmental issues
Terry McGregor, Rye / Australia
27/01/2018 12:12
The last line of the story says "the carcass finds will assist in reviving the extinct species in future."
Just as some have suggested using mastodon or mammoth finds to revive those species, this is a horrible mistake. Any animal that might be created would be an imitation of the original that would be forced to live out its existence in cruel captivity. Nature is often harsh and unsentimental and these species are extinct because they could not adapt. What world would they be introduced to?
Elephantine species and lions are both herd animals. Raising them without a family would also be bitterly inhumane.
And what would be the purpose? Little of scientific value could be gained. They would be side-show entertainments and nothing more.
Humans are finally learning that animals are beings, not toys. Reviving them would be immoral.
Stan Flouride, San Francisco, US
04/01/2018 02:20
This is brilliant and dedicated research! Thanks to all the scientists who have participated. I would like to see the species revived!
Philip, Downers Grove, IL, USA
05/12/2017 01:33
Tragic about the cubs! Surprising this species were coloured grey -- like wolves!
Denzil, Madrid
01/12/2017 19:56

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy



Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory



The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies