10,000-Year-Old Frozen Cave Lion Cubs Found in Siberia

Academy of Sciences of Yakutia / The Siberian Times
Academy of Sciences of Yakutia / The Siberian Times / Academy of Sciences of Yakutia / The Siberian Times

For the first time ever, paleontologists in Yakutia, a region in the extreme northeast of Asia, have found the bodies of two fully intact cave lions (Panthera leo spelaea) believed to be over 10,000 years old. According to The Siberian Times and the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia, the cubs were discovered over the summer, preserved by the permafrost of the Sahka Republic—one of the coldest places on the planet, with average summer temperatures around 58°F and winter freezes of -50°F.

Scientists believe that cave lions went extinct around the time that the cubs died, so studying the remains of the ancient babies could tell them more about why the predatory species disappeared. "One theory is a decline in deer and cave bears, their prey, caused their demise," The Siberian Times reports. Previously, only partial skeletons, bones, and teeth of Panthera leo spelaea had been found, which makes this discovery of two complete specimens especially exciting.

Further information about the find will be shared at a media presentation in November, when other ancient creatures found preserved in the region over the years will also be on display. The only other information that the scientists have been able to confirm is that the prehistoric cats' remains were free of dangerous microorganisms such as anthrax—ruling out at least one possible cause of death.

Click on over to The Siberian Times' site to see the incredible photos