10K-Year-Old Extinct Species Found in Cave

These creatures once roamed alongside woolly mammoths
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2015 7:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – One of Earth's long-extinct and ancient predators has been found—wholly intact for the first time—in a cave in eastern Russia, the Siberian Times reports. According to the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia, two cave lion cubs were discovered this summer almost totally preserved by permafrost in the Sakha Republic of Siberia. "The find is sensational, no doubt," says a source linked to the discovery. The Academy plans to present the lions along with other high-profile, Pleistocene-era finds (like the Kolyma woolly rhinoceros and a woolly mammoth nicknamed Yuka) to the media in November. Scientists involved promise the cubs have no scary infections, like anthrax, but little else is known—including whether high-quality DNA was obtained from them, the Mirror reports.

Closely related to today's Afro-Asiatic lion, cave lions (Panthera spelaea) apparently roamed from Russia's far east to the British Isles, as well as northwestern Canada and Alaska. They were big, with a shoulder height of nearly four feet, and stalked horses, reindeer, and maybe young mammoths, IFL Science reports. It's unclear why they went extinct, but human hunting and climate change may have robbed them of prey. Only individual bones, parts of teeth, and carcass fragments have been found of cave lions until this year. Incredibly, Siberia's other ancient finds (described well last year by the BBC) were so well-preserved by Mother Nature that the meat may be edible and could "even contain liquid blood," says IFL Science. (In another surprise find, Pompeii's residents had "perfect teeth.")

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