Sparta and Boris are two young cubs, some tens of thousands of years old, of the extinct cave lions (Panthera spelaea). The Ice Age animals were found by researchers in Siberia, Russia, and are extremely well preserved.
The pussies were between 1 and 2 months old, according to a study published on Wednesday (4) in the magazine Quaternary. Today, the female Sparta is more than 27 thousand years old and the male Boris is more than 43 thousand years old, according to analysis by the researchers.
Boris was found in 2017 in the Semyuelyakh River by Boris Berezhnev, a resident of the region and an authorized collector of mammoth tusks — an object that was being sought by the man when he found the little lion.
As early as 2018, just 15 meters from where Boris had been found, Sparta was found. On social media, the Center for Paleogenetics, which one of the authors of the research is associated with, stated that Sparta is possibly the best preserved Ice Age animal ever found. The little mummies even have their coat and tail preserved. The chick’s tail has, at its tip, a darker color, having almost a brush-like appearance.
The authors point out that Sparta was lying on her right side with her skull slightly deformed, her eyes closed and her mouth open.
Boris also had his skull slightly deformed and turned to the right. The animal’s limbs were stretched out and, researchers say, appear to have been frozen in motion, “which may suggest that the Boris calf was trying to break free or find its way to the surface.”
“Perhaps the chicks were buried after a landslide and their bodies were deformed by land mass and permafrost, quickly freezing to become mummies,” the authors say.
Cave lions can be seen in paintings, more than 30,000 years old, in the cave of Chauvet, France. Filmmaker Werner Herzog filmed the interior of the cave, work that resulted in the work “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams”.
“The discovery of frozen cave lion cubs offers an interesting opportunity for research into the bodies of lions adapted to cold climates,” the authors state. “This adds valuable physical reconstruction data to what is currently known from Paleolithic French cave art.”