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10,000-year-old extinct lion cubs discovered in near-perfect condition in Siberian permafrost

The Week logo The Week 10/27/2015 Jeva Lange

Two extinct cave lion cubs were discovered in permafrost in northeastern Siberia, a "sensational" and unprecedented find according to The Siberian Times. The cubs are believed to be at least 10,000 years old, though they might be even older, and were found almost perfectly preserved thanks to the permafrost.

The region where the cubs were discovered, the Sakha Republic, has yielded discoveries before, including woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, bison, and horses. The remains of the lions are the most complete specimens of their kind ever discovered, according to researchers involved.

Cave lions lived during the Middle to Late Pleistocene eras in Eurasia, the British Isles, to the far east of Russia, and into Alaska and northwestern Canada. Their extinction remains something of a mystery because they had few predators and, due to their smaller size, they wouldn't get trapped in bogs like woolly mammoths and rhinos. One theory is that their extinction might have been due to a decline in prey. By studying the cubs, scientists hope to reach firmer conclusions.

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