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30,000-year-old ‘cave lion’ found in Siberian permafrost

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The head of a baby cave lion found in the permafrost of Siberia. Its eye, nose, whiskers are clearly seen. Courtesy of Naoki Suzuki

30,000-year-old ‘cave lion’ found in Siberian permafrost

The whole body of a “cave lion,” a creature believed to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago, was found in Siberian permafrost soil, Jikei University School of Medicine visiting Prof. Naoki Suzuki and a Russian research team announced Monday.

The body has been preserved in good condition, still having its muscles and internal organs. The discovery is expected to help advance research on its biology.

According to Suzuki, the cave lion was found in July last year in the Republic of Sakha in northeastern Siberia. The creature is about 40 centimeters long and weighs about 800 grams, and is believed to be a female newborn cub.

The result of an age measurement showed that this specimen lived about 30,000 years ago. An analysis by computerized tomography (CT) revealed that the animal still has its brain, lungs, heart and other organs, in addition to its muscles.

The research team found a total of three cave lions in Siberia in 2015 and 2017. This most recent find is in such good condition that it was the first time organs were able to be identified so clearly in an example of the species.

“We’d like to compare it to lions that exist today, estimate how it grew and decode its DNA,” Suzuki said.

In addition to the cave lion, the team found the head of a wolf believed to be about 30,000 years old in permafrost soil nearby. The head was also in very good condition, and it is the first time that an ancient wolf with muscles and brain preserved has been discovered. The Japan News/ANN

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