The latest dating results on two almost perfectly preserved cave lion cubs has resulted in a date of 55 kyr (thousand years old). The extinct ancient cubs were discovered in Siberia preserved in the permafrost in the summer of 2015. They were previously dated at being at least 12 kyr but new research indicates they are at least twice that old being somewhere between 25-55 kyr. One of them is described as “perfectly preserved.”
Cave lions became extinct about 10,000 BC and these two cubs are estimated to have been between 1-2 weeks old at the time of their deaths. Researchers believe the cubs were killed when a prehistoric ceiling collapsed atop their den.
Cave lions were a bit different from modern lions. For one thing they had shorter tails than modern lions and they tended to be a bit larger. At the time of their birth and death Siberia was in the Karginskii Interglacial (warming period) that lasted from about 25 kya to 55 kya (thousand years ago).
One of the primary researchers is Dr Albert Protopopov and he said a more exact date of the age of the cubs will be determined at some point later as analysis is continuing. Further, a CT scan has revealed that the cubs teeth had not even appeared yet and this is one way they determined the cubs to be 1-2 weeks old. Protopopov is head of he Dept of Mammoth Fauna at the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic.
Researchers have also found a white substance in the stomach of one of the cubs which they suspect could be the mother’s milk or gastric fluid. DNA analysis has confirmed that the cubs are ancient cave lions. Researchers plan to take another CT scan to get more detailed information on the cub’s internal organs.
The fur, ears, soft tissue, and whiskers were all in tact when the cubs were discovered. Cave Lions lived during the Mid and Late Pleistocene in Eurasia. They have been found from the UK to the extreme parts of Eastern Russia and also in Alaska and Canada.