Researchers have found the best-preserved Ice Age animal out there. They nicknamed the lion cub Sparta, and it is believed to be nearly 28,000-year-old. It was discovered in the Siberian permafrost, and you can even recognize the whiskers. Skin, teeth and soft tissues have all been mummified by the ice, and even its organs are intact.
Sparta is the fourth cave lion cub that was found buried in permafrost in Russia. It was discovered back in 2018 when a local resident was looking for ancient mammoth tusks. Boris Berezhnev was the one to found it.
Tusk hunting is not unheard of, and climate change does help it by weakening the permafrost. We’re finding more and more remains, and not only mammoths are the stars now. Wolves, horses, woolly rhinos, reindeers, brown bears and bison were also found, and some of them date back as far as 40,000 years. The home of these creatures was vast – another cave lion was found in 2017, but it was not preserved as good, probably because of the permafrost cave collapsing. They named it Boris.
Both Boris and Sparta are about one to two months old. But Boris is believed to be 15,000 years older. It is hard to prove how their coats would have developed when older.
The best proof of their existence stays in their mummified bodies. Their frozen carcasses look very similar to the nowadays lions, but they are way bigger. We can also learn more about them from early human artwork: cave lions didn’t show manes, but they did have dark patterns of colouring on their face. Experts believe that their fur would have turned into a light grey colour and would have helped them camouflage better in Siberia.