By: Matthew Vassilakos
Summary. In 2018 a man, searching for mammoth tusks in the permafrost of Siberia, found a cave lion cub that was almost perfectly preserved. This is believed to be one of the best-preserved specimens of any animal from the last Ice Age. This cub nicknamed Sparta is believed to be almost 28,000 years old. It was the second cub found in this location but the other, found 15 months before, is around 43,000 years old. They were initially thought to be siblings due to the similar appearance and location of discovery. It was only once the cubs were brought to the lab and radiocarbon dating was used that it was discovered the two cubs differed in age by around 15,000 years. These cubs were both estimated to be between one and two months based on their teeth, however when compared to modern African lion cubs the teeth of the cave lion cubs were developing slower. The researchers also could look at the hair of the cub because it was so well preserved. It was a greyish to light brown, this shows they had fur better adapted for the cold, white winters of northern Eurasia. It is likely that the cave lion cubs were buried quickly, a mudslide was suggested as a possible explanation for why they were preserved so well. Amazingly Sparta even has some of her mother’s milk still preserved inside of her. This allowed scientists to accurately determine what a fully grown cave lion’s diet could have looked like without finding an adult with food still in its stomach. Researchers from Russia, United States, France, Sweden, United Kingdom and Japan all collaborated on studies trying to figure out all they could from the two cave lion cubs that were found in this location.
Why we should care? We should care about this because we can learn about these animals, how they lived and what caused them to go extinct. We can use this knowledge to help protect the species still with us today.
I enjoyed this article because it was very informative about the cave lion cubs. However, the best part of the article was the included video. The video showed a lot of the process of how the cave lion cub was found and extracted from the permafrost. You can see how the how it was “mined” out of the cave and how ice was broken off the body to reveal the cave lion cub that anyone who has seen the lion king could recognize. It also provided interesting insights that the person who found the cub was not even looking for it, showing sometimes people accidentally stumble upon important scientific discoveries without even trying to.
Science in Action.
Dr. Love Dalén is a Professor in Evolutionary Genetics at the Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History.
Professor Dalén works using DNA technology to study the evolution of different species, past and present. He also looks at how environmental changes in the past effect the distribution and abundance of species today on Earth. He studies animals ranging from rhinos and mammoths to cave lions and lemmings. He looks at genetic variation, population structure and population size have changed over time, especially as a result of climate during the Late Pleistocene (Last Ice Age). His work is relevant to the cave lion cubs because he was one of the leading researchers looking at the cubs and determining how they lived. He has done the same with other animals, as mentioned above. The work Professor Dalén does can help us to protect the animals we still have by looking at the ones we have lost.
Wow! Sparta is definitely a unique and important discovery. It is truly amazing that she was discovered, especially after finding the other cub nearby! I wonder if the mother of these cubs will soon be discovered nearby. I’m shocked that a cub 28,000 years old could be preserved so well! I also wish to learn more about radiocarbon dating and the processes scientists use to research these specimens, it's super fascinating to me!
You can definitely tell that Sparta was cute when she was alive! It is amazing to me that these lions are so well preserved that scientists would think that animals that lived 15,0000 years apart could possibly be siblings. I think finding things like this even though it may seem small, can help us piece together a picture of what life looked like thousands of years back in the past. I'm excited to learn more about how the lion species has evolved over the years and how similar our existing lions today were to ones back then.
It’s incredible to see an animal so old so perfectly preserved. It is also interesting that the one they had fund previously was believed to be its sibling even though they were 15,000 years apart. That could give us a good idea of how slowly evolution occurs. Its cool to see a specimen so well preserved, definitely a great sample to see how life was back then.
It always amazes me whenever we discover such an intact specimen that has been frozen and lost in time. It also makes me a little sad especially because of how young the cub is, but fascinating nonetheless. It also interesting the age differences between the first cub and the second cub. They were found so close to each other but one was already frozen when the other was alive.
It’s so fascinating to see such an old specimen found so well preserved. It would be really interesting to compare it to today’s lion cubs to see if and how the species has changed. I wonder if these specimens could give us any insight on how lions could possibly evolve in the future.
Another wild find with implications in both archeology and paleontology. Happening upon one mummy is fascinating enough but 2 in one area is breathtaking. An important note that just because 2 things are found near each otger does not mean they are related. These 2 cubs were 15000 years apart?
This was so interesting to read about and it’s absolutely incredible that the cubs were so well preserved. The fact that there was milk preserved in the cub for thousands of years is crazy. What a coincidence that two cubs with such vastly different ages were preserved and found so close. Eveything about this discovery is somewhat unbelievable. I am also amazed at the technology we have to figure out things as specific as their diets. We can also learn so much from these discoveries, especially in regards to evolution and how the cub has adapted over time. Perhaps in the future will discover some species and animals we had no idea existed as well!
I find it fascinating how well persevered these cubs were found. The fact that they can now figure out the diet of the cave lions just by the milk found in the cub is amazing. Sparta honestly does not look like he is 28,000 years old, he looks so fluffy, I never would have thought. It also interesting to find out there teeth were growing at a slower rate than modern African lion cubs. Great article!
fascinating! Preservation and mummification through permafrost is incredibly interesting and something my inner child would love to learn more on. The fact that they found the mothers milk still inside Sparta is brilliant. And even more so, that it will lead to researchers to further develop what a full grown cave lion would/could look like during that time!
What a cool find! It's crazy that the cub was preserved so well for so long. Like many of the other comments were saying I wonder how different the specimen is than lion cubs today. It would definitely give us some cool insight on evolution and how the species may evolve in the future.
Wow! This was so interesting to learn about. Its so crazy to hear that animals can be preserved through permafrost, you can see how they were living, and how old they are. At first glance I thought it was a regular save lion, but it surprised me by how old it actually is! I wonder what the differences were between that lion and lions today since they look so similar.
It is definitely fascinating to see things like this occur. When things that are from the past are perfectly preserved and we can learn about the diets and lifestyle of these animals, it builds on the knowledge of times that aren't recorded in history. This reminds me of when we discovered "Lucy" and all of the interesting data that we gathered from that. I look forward to hearing about what this lion cub teaches us.
This article has to have been my favorite to read so far. As an animal lover, news like this is so cool to hear about. I did not think it was physically possible for such a creature to be perfectly preserved for 28,000 years, let alone 43,000. To know what secrets the Earth is capable of holding is fascinating, and I hope more accidental discoveries like this occur! How interesting that even the mother's milk was still preserved inside Sparta; nature is truly incredible.
Based on reading the article I did not expect the remains to look as they did in the picture. I was very surprised to see how good the condition was after so many years. I am curious about what the cub was buried in that kept it from decaying. Even with being frozen, temperatures fluctuate so it must have been incased very well.
I really enjoyed reading abou this topic. Dating animals from the past has always been something that interested me and it is more interesting to find out that they can date animals by using carbon dating which I learned about in this Environmental class and in my Geology class so reading this topic I’m already interested and being able to relate to things I’m learning was really cool, this would be something that I would love to do and expierience.
I really enjoyed your blog post. The most fascinating point was the part about the mother’s milk still being preserved within the cub. The cub being preserved and in such good condition is really amazing but the fact that the mothers milk also preserved was interesting as well. It’s so interesting to think about all the different species of animals that have ever lived and how they evolved into what we know now.
Interestingly, scientists found two preserved lion cubs, resembling one another. Even though they were thought to be siblings, they were 15,000 years apart. These finds truly help us when looking at Earth's past, understanding the environment that once was there. I think this has been one of my favorite articles so far!
I really enjoyed reading about this and some of the information was just so cool to know about like the milk preserved in the cub. However, it is upsetting to see how neglecting the world could be to animals unfortunately. For a cub to be found frozen like that is really disheartening. The image you used of the frozen cub gives your audience a chance to fully feel the emotions through this presentation. I believe it’s important that things like this are taken into account effectively to protect the animals we have left on this earth.
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