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Perfectly preserved, frozen cave lions found in Siberia with whiskers still intact

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A perfectly preserved and frozen 28,000-year-old cave lion cub was found deep in the Siberian arctic, making it one of the world’s best-preserved ice age animals, an expert has said.

The female lion cub’s fur, teeth and skin are all intact, the CNN reported on Thursday.

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The lion, nicknamed Sparta, was one of two baby cave lions found in the area. Both cave lions, extinct felines that used to roam mainly across the Northern Hemisphere, were found in 2017 and 2018 by mammoth tusk hunters in Russia’s Far East on the banks of the Semyuelyakh River.

The cubs were found around 15 meters apart so they were thought to be siblings, but a new study has found that the age difference between the two amounted to some 15,000 years. The second cub, nicknamed Boris, is known to be older and according to carbon dating, he was found to be around 43,448 years old.

“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,” professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden and author of a new study on the cubs Love Dalen told the CNN.

They were around one to two months old before they perished, the study, published in Quaternary, found.

Scans conducted on the animal showed skull and skeleton damage as well as dislocation of the ribs. However, how the cubs died remains to be unknown.

“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. Permafrost forms large cracks due to seasonal thawing and freezing,” Dalen said.

According to the research, the general tone of the cubs’ fur coat was similar to that of the African lion cub, however both lions exhibited some differences in their coat color. Boris had “greyish yellowish” fur while Sparta’s fur was “greyish to light brown.”

“It is, therefore, possible that light coloration prevailed with age in cave lions and was adaptive for northern snow-covered landscapes,” the study revealed.

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