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European Cave Lion - Panthera leo spelaea
Topic Started: Mar 9 2012, 05:27 PM (7,796 Views)
Taipan
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European Cave Lion - Panthera leo spelaea

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Temporal range: Middle to Late Pleistocene

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: Disputed; P. leo or †P. spelaea
Subspecies: Disputed; †P. l. spelaea or none

Panthera leo spelaea or P. spelaea, commonly known as the European or Eurasian cave lion, is an extinct subspecies of lion known from fossils and many examples of prehistoric art.

Physical characteristics
This subspecies was one of the largest lions. The skeleton of an adult male, which was found in 1985 near Siegsdorf (Germany), had a shoulder height of around 1.2 m (4 ft) and a head-body length of 2.1 m (7 ft) without the tail. This is similar to the size of a very large modern lion. The size of this male has been exceeded by other specimens of this subspecies. Therefore this cat may have been around 8%-10% bigger than modern lions and smaller than the earlier cave lion subspecies Panthera leo fossilis or the relatively huge American Lion (Panthera leo atrox). The cave lion is known from Paleolithic cave paintings, ivory carvings, and clay figurines. These representations indicate that cave lions had rounded, protruding ears, tufted tails, possibly faint tiger-like stripes, and that at least some had a "ruff" or primitive mane around their neck, indicating males. Other archaeological artifacts indicate that they were featured in Paleolithic religious rituals.

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Environment
The cave lion received its common name because large quantities of its remains are found in caves, but it is doubtful whether they lived in them. It had a wide habitat tolerance, but probably preferred conifer forests and grasslands, where medium-sized to large herbivores occurred. Fossil footprints of lions, which were found together with those of reindeer, demonstrate that lions once occurred even in subpolar climates. The presence of fully articulated adult cave lion skeletons, deep in cave bear dens, indicates that lions may have occasionally entered dens to prey on hibernating cave bears, with some dying in the attempt.

These active carnivores probably preyed upon the large herbivorous animals of their time, including horses, deer, reindeer, bison and even injured old or young mammoths. Some paintings of them in caves show several hunting together, which suggests the hunting strategy of contemporary lionesses. Isotopic analyses of bone collagen samples extracted from fossils suggest that reindeer and cave bear cubs were prominent in the diets of northwestern European cave lions. There was a suggestion of a shift in dietary preferences subsequent to the disappearance of the Cave Hyena. The last cave lions seem to have focused on reindeer, right up to the brink of local extinction or extirpation of both species.

Small prey was usually brought down with a blow of the front paw and then held down with both front feet. The animal was finally killed by a powerful bite of the sharp teeth, at the back of the neck, in the region of the throat and even in the chest. A cave lion usually could not run as fast as its prey, but could pounce on it from behind or run up next to it and bring it down with the paws. In this manner a running animal's balance could very easily be disturbed.

It was most likely the most common predator (after the cave hyena) in plains ecosystems. Its extinction may have been related to the Quaternary extinction event, which wiped out most of the megafauna prey in those regions. Cave paintings and remains found in the refuse piles of ancient camp sites indicate that they were hunted by early humans, which also may have contributed to their demise.

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A map of the approximate distributions of late Pleistocene lions. Red indicates the maximal range of Panthera spelaea; blue the maximal range of Panthera atrox; and green the maximal range of Panthera leo leo/Panthera leo persica. Stars show approximate locations of lion samples. The insets show details of the modern boundaries of Yukon Territory, Canada, and Chukotka, Russia, along with regional settlements.

Classification
The cave lion is sometimes considered a species in its own right, under the name Panthera spelaea, and at least one authority, based on a comparison of skull shapes, considers the cave lion to be more closely related to the Tiger, which would result in the formal name Panthera tigris spelaea. However, recent genetic research shows that it was most closely related to the modern Lion among extant felids and that it formed a single population with the Beringian cave lion, which has been sometimes considered as to represent a distinct form. Therefore the cave lion ranged from Europe to Alaska over the Bering land bridge until the latest Pleistocene. However it is still not clear whether it should be considered a subspecies of the lion or rather a closely related species.

History and distribution
The cave lion (Panthera leo spelea) was derived from the earlier Panthera leo fossilis, which first appeared in Europe about 700,000 years ago. Genetic evidence indicates that this lineage was isolated from extant lions after its dispersal to Europe. P. l. spelaea lived from 370,000 to 10,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene epoch. Apparently, it became extinct about 12,500 C-14 years ago, during the Würm glaciation, although there are some indications it may have existed into historic times in southeastern Europe, as recently as 2,000 years ago in the Balkans.

Cave lions were widespread in parts of Europe, Asia and northwestern North America, from Great Britain, Germany and Spain (Arduini & Teruzzi, 1993) all the way across the Bering Strait to the Yukon Territory, and from Siberia to Turkistan. Mitochondrial DNA sequence data from fossil remains shows that American Lions (P. l. atrox) represent a sister lineage to P. l. spelaea, and likely arose when an early P. l. spelaea population became isolated south of the North American continental ice sheet about 340 000 years ago.

Edited by Taipan, Nov 12 2017, 12:10 PM.
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'Supersize' lions roamed Britain

By Natalie Hancock
BBC News, Oxford

It is thought the ancient lions would not have had manes
Giant lions were roaming around Britain, Europe and North America up to 13,000 years ago, scientists from Oxford University have found.

Remains of giant cats previously discovered were thought to be a species of jaguar or tiger but after DNA analysis they were proved to be lions.

They were 25% bigger than the species of African lion living today, and had longer legs to chase their prey.

They would have lived in icy tundra with mammoth and sabretooth tigers.

It is thought these animals would hunt over longer distances, and their longer legs would help them chase down their prey as opposed to the modern-day species which tends to ambush its victims.

The Oxford team analysed DNA from fossils and other remains gathered from Germany to Siberia, and Alaska to Wyoming.

Dr Ross Barnett, who conducted the research at Oxford University's department of Zoology, said: "These ancient lions were like a super-sized version of today's lions and, in the Americas, with longer legs adapted for endurance running.

"What our genetic evidence shows is that these ancient extinct lions and the lions of today were very closely related.

"Cave art also suggests that they formed prides, although the males in the pictures would not have had manes and they are depicted very realistically."

Lions appear to have been very important to early man with many depictions of them in their cave paintings, as in seen in the pre-historic cave complex at Chauvet in France.

Other archaeological finds in Germany include figurines which are half man, half lion, leading to the theory that lions may even have been worshipped by ancient humans.

The team found that these remains from the Pleistocene Epoch (1.8 million years ago to 10,000 years ago) could be divided into two groups: the American Lion which lived in North America, and the Cave Lion which lived in northern Europe, Russia, Alaska and the Yukon.

These ancient cats would have lived in an environment that was more like an icy tundra and would have shared their habitat with herds of other large animals such as mammoth, woolly rhino, sabre tooth tigers and giant deer.

About 13,000 years ago these species died out in a mass extinction. Figuring out the reason behind this, Dr Barnett said, was one of the last great scientific mysteries.

He said: "There are a couple of different schools of thought. It could have been climate change or something to do with humans. Humans could have been killing off their prey or killing the lions themselves.

"The extinction is a big question that remains unresolved. More research and more advanced genetic analysis may help answer it."

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Huge lions once roamed Britain alongside tigers and jaguars. By comparing their skulls, scientists revealed that British lions would have weighed up to 50 stone (317kg) – the equivalent of a small car – compared to African lions which weigh up to 39 stone

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/earthnews/5077393/Super-sized-lions-roamed-UK-in-ice-age.html
Edited by Taipan, Nov 12 2017, 12:15 PM.
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The Last Lions
A new view of predators that once roamed Central Europe


By Jacy Meyer
For The Prague Post
August 15th, 2007 issue

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Illustration by George "Rinaldino" Teich

During the last ice age, 24,000 to 100,000 years ago, Prague looked much like Siberia does today. Reindeers, wooly mammoths, hyenas and cave bears roamed the lands. There were lions as well, though exactly what sort of lions has become a matter of debate.
Almost since paleontologists started digging up bones in Central Europe, it was believed the lions here lived in caves. Scientists assumed this was the case because the first lion bones, skulls and teeth were discovered in caves, including those around Prague and Beroun.
But in a recently published paper, Dr. Cajus Diedrich, a German paleontologist, archeozoologist and geologist, says it’s not true. The reason lion bones were found in caves, he maintains, is because hyenas brought them there.
“Hyenas were more or less overlooked,” explains Diedrich. “No one liked them, so no one really discussed the possibility that lions could have been imported to the caves by other carnivores. Scientists believed lions were the kings, not to be attacked — which is wrong.”
Panthera leo spelaea is the Latin name for the cave lion. But Diedrich says that animal never existed.
“Hyenas scavenged the lions outside and then brought them to the caves,” Diedrich says. If lions inhabited the caves, he argues, there would be more bones (only two to three percent of the bones recovered in caves are from lions), along with other evidence, such as lion fecal matter. The fact that lion bones often bear chew marks adds further weight to the idea they did not die natural deaths.
“The late ice-age lions lived like modern lions,” Diedrich says. “They lived in clans, they gave birth in the open landscape, such as modern ones do, and they hunted all kinds of large animals.”
And some animals, like hyenas, hunted lions.
“The lions were in strong conflicts with hyenas,” Diedrich says. “This is the most important message, because it explains why lion bones are in hyena den caves all over Europe.”

Bones of contention
Diedrich first got the idea for his theory in 2004.
“I was cleaning a basement in a German museum and a hyena skull with jaws looked into my face,” he says. “I was confused, because I knew cave bears well, and also lions a little bit at that time. But it was a hyena skull, found in 1906.”
Tracking down more bones from German caves, Diedrich found more than 3,000 from what he says is one of the most important hyena dens in Central Europe. After those were lion bones that had been chewed. He also spent time at the National Museum in Prague, where, after sorting through 50,000 bones, the picture became clearer.
“I saw that, always in hyena caves, lion bones and even complete skeletons were found,” he says. “I remembered the situation in Germany and click — it was the same coincidence.”
Diedrich has been a bone-lover ever since he began collecting fossils at the age of 8. One thing that separates him from many of his peers is his practice of using present-day animals to help research his ice-age subjects.
“When I have a bone, I compare it to a modern animal,” he says. “Many animals that are extinct in Bohemia today are alive elsewhere — reindeer, wolverines, arctic foxes ... though the wooly mammoth is tough.”
Once the bones are identified, Diedrich then needs to determine how old they are. There are three different dating methods, all with limitations. The primary one is radio carbon analysis, which is expensive and can be done only if the bone is less than 40,000 years old. The second way is to compare the sample bone with others found near it, which may reveal whether the period was warm or cold. But, if the animal lived at the end of a major climactic period, the dating could be off by as much as 100,000–200,000 years. The third method is to study the site where the bone was found, with deeper layers of dirt getting progressively older — if they were deposited evenly.
“We have a lion’s skull [near] a reindeer, but it could be one [glacial period] older, and so 100,000 years older than you think,” Diedrich says. “Plus, older excavations were done with pickaxes and shovels, so there was a lot of damage that affects all three methods.”

Snakes and porcupines

Diedrich’s recent paper on lions, published in the Czech Geological Survey’s Bulletin of Geosciences, represents only one facet of his work with Central European fossils.
“I will try to publish at least one paper about the most famous hyena population of Srbsko, and from the same site a paper about the last wolverines of Bohemia,” he says. “I also have some 25-million-year-old snakes and porcupines in the works, one of the biggest discoveries in the Bohemian karst.
”Diedrich plans to present his latest findings at a cave-bear symposium in Brno, south Moravia, this September. Meanwhile, he’s at work on another project: a study of “reptile tracks from pre-dinosaur times in Europe,” with the support of a German foundation, the Deutsche Forschungs-Gemeinschaft.
“These 240-million-year-old reptile ‘track ways’ were produced all over Central Europe in tidal flats,” he says. “No one expected tracks in marine sediments, especially where the daily tide came and went.”
As for the Bohemian lions, Diedrich says they were most likely victims of climate change, which killed off a lot of vegetation. With their food source gone, many animals died, affecting other animals further up the food chain.
The story, Diedrich says, is all in the bones, and he hopes to bring it to a much wider audience.
“I want to bring the bones out of the basements [of museums] and show them in a modern, attractive way,” he says. “I don’t want to do it for the scientific community, but to bring science to a popular level.

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German paleontologist Cajus Diedrich believes Central European lions were not cave-dwellers, but lived in the open, where they were hunted by hyenas. [/size]http://www.praguepost.com/articles/2007/08/15/the-last-lions.php
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Warmer climate may have wiped out the cave lion

17 June 2010, by Tamera Jones

Cave lions probably became extinct across Europe and Asia 14,000 years ago because a warmer climate drastically reduced the availability of their favourite hunting arenas, say scientists.

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Cave lions depicted on the walls of the Chauvet Caves in France.

Around 1000 years later, the lion also went extinct in Alaska and the Yukon in north-west Canada.

The researchers say as the climate warmed around 14,700 years ago, forests and shrubs steadily replaced the open, steppe-like environment that had dominated for thousands of years, reducing the amount of clear space for the lion to hunt in.

'We can't say exactly why cave lions went extinct, but what we can say is that there's a definite correlation between climate change, vegetation change and the lion's extinction a few hundred years later,' says Professor Tony Stuart from Durham University, who led the research.

'What is clear is that as the climate changed the environment, this had a big effect on everything.'
Professor Tony Stuart, Durham University

'At the moment, we have no idea why there's a 1000-year gap between the cave lion's extinction in Eurasia and its extinction in Alaska and Yukon,' he admits.

Although the cave lion's modern equivalent (Panthera leo) is now only found in Sub-Saharan Africa and in a wildlife sanctuary in north-west India, its long-extinct relative roamed the plains of Europe, northern Asia and Alaska and north-west Canada from around 60,000 years ago until about 14,000 years ago.

From the numerous fossils dated from the same period, scientists know that the lion's preferred prey were probably bison, reindeer, horse, giant deer and musk ox.

Before this research, many scientists thought that the cave lion (Panthera spelaea) may have gone extinct because its prey went extinct and the lion slowly ran out of food.

'We've pretty much ruled this out now,' explains Stuart. 'Most of the cave lion's likely prey survived for thousands of years after the cave lion went extinct. The only one that went extinct around the same time was the woolly rhino and this is unlikely to have been a major prey item.'

Stuart and his colleague Professor Adrian Lister from London's Natural History Museum report in Quaternary Science Reviews how they built up a dataset of 111 carbon dates, including 93 new dates on cave lion bones or teeth from museums in Europe, Russia and North America.

The bones and teeth came from all over the cave lion's range in Europe, northern Asia, Alaska and the Yukon.

Their results suggest the cave lion went extinct around about the same time across Europe and northern Asia. The most recent date came from a cave lion skeleton found in France. Carbon dating revealed that this individual died about 14,141 years ago.

They found the youngest bones from Alaska and the Yukon region dated back to 13,300 and 13,800 years ago.

Human influence

Other researchers have argued that the arrival of humans on the cave lion's patch may have contributed to its extinction.

'So far, there's no strong evidence for this. Although more research looking at the timing of the arrival of people in the area would help resolve this.'

'What is clear is that as the climate changed the environment, this had a big effect on everything,' says Stuart.

The modern Asiatic lion reclaimed much of south-eastern Europe around 6000 to 8000 years after the cave lion went extinct in Eurasia.

'It's remarkable that the modern lion re-colonised a large region of south-eastern Europe not that long after the cave lion disappeared,' adds Stuart.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Anthony J Stuart and Adrian M Lister, Extinction chronology of the cave lion Panthera spelaea, Quaternary Science Reviews, available online 7 June 2010, doi:[url]10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.04.023[/url]

http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/news/story.aspx?id=746
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Battle royale: Prehistoric cave bears versus cave lions

By Matt Walker
Editor, BBC Nature
23 May 2011

Deep inside the bowels of a dark cave in central Europe, a noise rouses a fierce creature.

Sleeping on its bed, a giant cave bear opens one eye, alert to any intruder.

It stands, lifting its massive 400kg frame and bares its teeth.

In front of it is an equally sized cave lion; a giant predatory cat, and the cave bear's mortal enemy.

Only one will survive, while the bones of the fallen will litter the cave floor for millennia.

New evidence reveals how such titanic struggles likely took place in caves across central Europe in the Upper Pleistocene epoch, which ended around 11,500 years ago.

While excavating caves in Germany and Romania, scientists have unearthed the bones of large numbers of cave bears, a now extinct species that stood bigger than today's grizzly bears.

The bears' bones, claw marks they left in the caves in which they lived, and even the beds they slept on, paint the best picture yet of how these magnificent creatures once lived.

But more than that, researchers have also uncovered the petrified bones of the cave bear's foe, the Pleistocene cave lion.

More than 25% bigger than today's African lions, the cave lion was itself an impressive predator, one that may have specialised in hunting cave bears for food.

Details of the two massive animals' remarkable battles have been released by palaeontologist Dr Cajus Diedrich of PaleoLogic, based in Halle, Germany.

"We have found spectacular things," he told BBC News. "Cave bear dens with skeleton remains, which [show] cave bears clearly were eaten by large predators."

Paws and claws

In the journal Ichnos, he describes the results of a new survey of a cave bear den in a cave in the Western Carpathian mountains of Romania, in central Europe.

During extensive surveys inside, Dr Diedrich has discovered tens of thousands of bones belonging to several generations of cave bears, from young cubs to old animals.

The location of the bones reveals that the bears likely only entered the cave through the main opening and inhabited its drier areas.

He has also found several hundred tracks made by cave bears walking through the caverns, scratch marks on the walls made by bears and even hibernation nests the bears dug out to sleep on.

Well preserved foot prints are rare, and they can help establish the behaviour of the cave bears compared to modern brown bears or black bears.

For example, cave bears made much larger prints than those of its later relatives, and had short broad claws.

That suggests cave bears had dull digging claws like black bears, and were herbivorous. In contrast, brown bears are omnivorous and have sharp pointed claws useful for catching and killing small animals and fish.

"The feeding habits, diet and food-gathering behaviour of cave bears must therefore have been more similar to those of black bears than brown bears, with both cave and black bears using their claws more for scratching and digging," writes Dr Diedrich.

Sleeping dens

The footprints also reveal that the prehistoric bears wandered the cave's inner caverns, even walking down to a stream to drink, possibly during the time the bears were hibernating.

A mounted cave bear skeleton Scratch marks even indicate that very young bears lived inside, evidence that bears were born and raised in the cave.

Hibernation nests are better known from other sites, but few have been analysed in detail.

In the cave, known as Ursilor cave after its bear inhabitants, Dr Diedrich uncovered 140 cave bear beds, most oval-shaped and up to 50cm deep.

Scratch marks establish for the first time that the bears excavated these beds to sleep on, and there is evidence some even died in their sleep.

Dr Diedrich has found the skeletons of an adult and a one-year-old cub within their beds, the cub still in its sleeping position.

Bear killers

But it is the battles these bears fought with the equally impressive cave lions that is perhaps the most intriguing.

Three skeletons of cave lions have been found so far 800m deep within Romania's Ursilor cave.

European cave lions were a subspecies of the modern lion, which today exists in Africa, with a small population remaining in Asia
Lions are the only social species of big cat, and the latest research suggests they live in prides to secure the best habitat

These remains overlap with the cave bear's territory, suggesting the lions had entered to hunt and kill bears.

Another cave, known as the Zoolithen cave near Burggeilenreuth, Germany has yielded a far more impressive hoard, however.

Dr Diedrich has researched the remains of 13 cave lions found in Zoolithen.

In the journal Historical Biology he describes how none were cubs, suggesting that cave lions, like their modern African relatives, didn't also raise their young inside the rocky caverns.

Crucially the lions were mostly older males, reinforcing the impression that only the bigger males entered the caves, supporting the idea they did so to hunt bears.

Or it could be that whole prides entered, with the adult males doing most of the fighting.

The cave lions may have targeted the bears after their usual prey, mammoth and woolly rhinoceros, disappeared.

Hunters become victims

Backing this idea are two cave bear skulls found within Zoolithen cave, which have been marked by lion's teeth.

Sketch of a cave lion skeleton Also found are the skeletons of giant hyenas, which also frequented similar Pleistocene caves.

They suggest that lions and hyenas also did battle, with some of these lion remains being dragged into the caves by giant hyenas, packs of which either killed the lions of scavenged their carcasses.

And hyenas may have scavenged cave bear bodies.

"Lions and hyenas ate the intestines and inner organs first," says Dr Diedrich.

But they also strongly suggest that some cave lions lost the fight with cave bears.

Being herbivorous, the cave bears wouldn't have scavenged the bodies of any lions they killed.

Instead they would have just trampled them into the cave floor, leaving the evidence we see today of these titanic struggles.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/12819243
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Meet this extinct cave lion, at least 10,000 years old

By Anastasia Koryakina26 October 2015

'Sensational' find of two cubs, the best preserved ever seen in the world, announced today.

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The cave lions were almost perfectly preserved in permafrost and could be much older. Picture: Academy of Sciences of Yakutia

The unprecedented discovery of the ancient predator was made this summer in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia. The cave lions were almost perfectly preserved in permafrost and could be much older.

The Siberian Times is proud to be working with the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia which will introduce the cubs properly at a presentation to the Russian and international media in late November.

Along with the two lions, paleontologists will also show other Pleistocene animals preserved by ice in this vast region, the largest and coldest in the Russian Federation. Among these will be the famous woolly mammoth Yuka, the 'Oimyakon' mammoth, the carcass of a Kolyma woolly rhinoceros, and Yukagir bison and horses.

Interested media organisations are invited to use the contacts below if they wish to attend.

The cave lions - Panthera spelaea (Goldfuss) - lived during Middle and Late Pleistocene times on the Eurasian continent, from the British Isles to Chukotka in the extreme east of Russia, and they also roamed Alaska and northwestern Canada. The extinct creatures were close relatives of modern Afro-Asiatic lion.

Finds of their remains are rare: today's announcement about the existence of the pair is coupled with the confident claim that they are best preserved ever unearthed in the world.

Full details will be given at the presentation in November, including the first results of research into the lions.

Previously, only fragments of carcasses, parts of skeletons and individual bones had been found. Until now, in Yakutia, only skulls, some teeth and bones were unearthed which has prevented scientists having more than an approximate image of the extinct creature.

Like other ancient animals, the cave lion became extinct: research on the two cubs could help to explain why they died out around 10,000 years ago, since the animal had few predators, was smaller than herbivores, and was not prone to getting bogged down in swamps, as did woolly mammoths and rhinos. One theory is a decline in deer and cave bears, their prey, caused their demise.

'The find is sensational, no doubt,' said a source close to the discovery. It is known the remains are free of dangerous infections such as anthrax following initial microbiological analysis, but no other significant details or pictures will be released before the presentation.

http://siberiantimes.com/science/others/news/n0464-meet-this-extinct-cave-lion-at-least-10000-years-old/
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Ancient Cave Lion Cubs Found Crushed and Frozen in Russia

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | November 2, 2016 06:43am ET

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The ancient cave lion cub named Uyan is so well preserved that researchers could tell that its mother fed it milk a few hours before it died.
Credit: Olga Potapova

SALT LAKE CITY — For more than 30,000 years, northern Russia's cold permafrost has preserved the small bodies of two furry and wide-pawed cave lion cubs, one of them in almost pristine condition, a new study found.

The two mummified cubs, nicknamed Uyan and Dina after the Uyandina River where they were found, were just about 1 week old when they died, likely crushed by "extensive collapse of the sediments in the den," the study's researchers wrote in a summary of their research. The report was presented as a poster here on Wednesday (Oct. 26) at the 2016 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting.

"They were squished to death," said study co-researcher Olga Potapova, the collections curator at the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The last known cave lion lived in what is now Alaska about 14,000 years ago, Potapova said. Little is known about the development of cave lions from cubs into adults, making the finding an extraordinary one, because it tells researchers about how these ancient cubs grew in comparison with their modern-day relatives, the lion (Panthera leo).

For instance, Uyan's body, which was more intact than Dina's, weighs about 6 lbs. (2.8 kilograms), which is about 4.6 lbs. (2.1 kg) heavier than a modern lion newborn, Potapova told Live Science. She added that because newborn lions don't have any identifiable sex characteristics, it's unclear whether Uyan and Dina were male or female.

Uyan's body is about the size of an adult house cat, approximately 17 inches (43 centimeters) long, Potapova said. At about 3 inches (7 cm) long, the cub's tail is just about 23 percent of its body length, "which is significantly smaller than that in modern lions," whose tails are about 60 percent of their body length, Potapova said.

Moreover, Uyan's legs had yet to grow long enough for walking, but the little one could likely crawl, Potapova said. Uyan was also a furry cub, with fur about 1.2 inches (3 cm) long on its body, Potapova noted.

Dina and Uyan were so young, they likely couldn't see yet, Potapova said. "Dina's eyelids were tightly closed, while in Uyan, the left eye was closed, but the right eyelids were positioned a little apart," Potapova wrote on the poster. However, it's unclear whether Uyan's right eyelids were already open when the animal died, or if they opened postmortem, Potapova said.

But modern lions don't open their eyes for two to three weeks after birth, and they can't even see properly for another week after that. So, given Uyan's young age at time of death, it's likely that the animal's eyes were closed when it died, Potapova said.

Cave lion canines

In modern lion cubs, the milk (baby) teeth erupt when the cub is about 3 weeks old, and permanent canines replace them when the cub is about 3 months old. However, a computer tomography (CT) scan of Uyan and Dina showed that although the cubs were still toothless, the milk and canine teeth were already erupting below the gum line in both animals.

"The advanced development of Uyan's dentition indicates that the milk teeth were likely to be shed at a sooner time, possibly at 2 months," the researchers wrote in the poster. [My, What Sharp Teeth! 12 Living and Extinct Saber-Toothed Animals]

However, because the cubs were still toothless, they likely fed by suckling milk from their mother. Uyan's stomach was empty, but a CT scan of the gut showed that the cub likely had milk just a few hours before dying, Potapova said.

Along with the cave lion mummies, which lived between 29,000 and 57,000 years ago, the researchers also found bones of approximately the same age belonging to a wooly mammoth, steppe bison, reindeer and wolf, along with two large brown bear skulls on the Uyandina's banks, Potapova said. However, these bones were collected about a year after the cubs' discovery, and so those fossils may not be from the exact same site where the cubs were found.

The cave lion finding is "fantastic," said study co-author Beth Shapiro, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

But despite the mummies' impressive preservation, their DNA is "in terrible condition," and it won't be possible to clone them, as a team of scientists in South Korea has proposed doing, Shapiro told Live Science.

An international team of paleontologists and geneticists is studying Uyan and Dina. The institutions include the Yakutian Academy of Sciences in Russia; the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs; the University of California, Santa Cruz; and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. The study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

http://www.livescience.com/56723-ancient-cave-lions-squished-to-death.html
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Frozen Remains of Extinct Lion Found in Russia
The Ice Age lion can still be seen resting its head on its paw.


By Sarah Gibbens
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 9, 2017



The frozen remains of a cave lion cub likely dating back to the last Ice Age were recently unveiled in Russia.

Local outlets reported that the remains of the roughly one-year-old cub were found in Russia's far northeastern Yukatia region this past September by a local resident. It's not the first time the frozen Siberian region has yielded prehistoric finds.

The area's permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, is capable of preserving animals like cave lions and woolly mammoths, even tens of thousands of years after their species went extinct.

The new cub comes just two years after two similarly frozen and intact lion cubs, named Uyan and Dina, were found. Dated to around 12,000 years old, Uyan and Dina were the first prehistoric cave lions found in such a well-preserved state.

According to Interfax, Russia's main independent newswire, the new cub—who has yet to be named—has been given to the country's Republic Academy of Sciences. Albert Protopopov, the same paleontologist who studied Uyan and Dina, will examine the new cub.

Unlike the 2015 cubs, who died at around two to three weeks of age (before their teeth came in), the new cub appears to have died when it was roughly a year old. Because it was old enough to grow teeth, scientists may be able to get a fairly accurate estimate of the cub's remains.

Cave lions went extinct roughly 10,000 years ago. What little scientists know about them has been gathered from bones and tracks. The cat, a subspecies of today's lion, is sometimes called a steppe lion because it prowled the grassy European steppe.

In video of the cub's unveiling, the lion's remains are in visibly good condition. Roughly the size of a person's forearm, the cub is compact and grayed, but its individual paws are still discernable. Tufts of fur still protrude from the animal's body. Perhaps most striking is the cub's face, which can still be seen resting on one of its paws.

More analysis will be performed to see if the cub is male or female.

After Uyan and Dina underwent testing, Protopopov told National Geographic that they most likely died when their den collapsed over them, trapping them under soil. It's unclear how this newly discovered cat perished, but Protopopov told local outlets that its remains appear to be in even better condition.

RECIPE FOR RESURRECTION

The new cub's good condition has refueled hopes that the remains could be used for cloning. In 2016, Korean and Russian scientists told Interfax they would attempt to clone a cave lion cub. What becomes of this new cub remains to be seen, but bringing extinct animals back to life, or de-extinction, has been a pursuit rife with debate among scientific communities.

Scientists meeting at National Geographic in 2013 agreed that reconstructing a genome, the process needed to recreate a species, was scientifically in reach but requires a specimen that's been kept from decay.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/frozen-remains-cave-lion-cub-siberia-russia-spd/
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