Cave Lion Cub Found in Siberian Permafrost Is 28,000 Years Old

By Reuters
August 13, 2021 Updated: August 13, 2021

YAKUTSK, Russia—Scientists have said that an astonishingly well-preserved cave lion cub found in Siberia’s permafrost lived 28,000 years ago and may even still have traces of its mother’s milk in it.

The female cub, named Sparta, was found at the Semyuelyakh River in Russia’s Yakutia region in 2018 and a second lion cub called Boris was found the year before, according to a study published in the Quaternary journal.

The cubs were found 15 meters (49 feet) apart, but were born thousands of years apart. Boris, a male cub, lived around 43,448 years ago, the study said.

cave lion cub Boris
A cave lion cub named Boris, which was found preserved in Siberia’s permafrost, is seen in this photo taken in Yakutsk, Russia, in 2020. (Innokenty Pavlov/Reuters)

The two cubs aged 1–2 months were found by mammoth tusk collectors. Two other lion cubs named Uyan and Dina have also been found in the region in recent years.

Cave lions have been extinct for thousands of years.

Valery Plotnikov, one of the study’s authors, told Reuters in the regional capital Yakutsk that Sparta was so well preserved that it still had its fur, internal organs, and skeleton.

“The find itself is unique; there was no any other such find in Yakutia,” he said.

“Maybe, we hope, some disintegrated parts of the mother’s milk (remain intact). Because if we have that, we can understand what its mother’s diet was,” he said.