Sparta and Boris are two ten thousand year old cubs 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 Wednesday (4) in the journal Quaternary. Today the female Sparta is more than 27,000 years old and the male Boris more than 43,000 years old, according to the researchers’ analysis.
Boris was found in 2017 in the Semyuelyakh River by Boris Berezhnev, a local resident and authorized collector of mammoth tusks – an object the man was looking for when he found the little lion.
Back in 2018, just 15 meters from the place where Boris was found, Sparta was found. On social media, the Center for Paleogenetics, with which one of the authors of the research is affiliated, stated that Sparta is possibly the best-preserved Ice Age animal ever found. The fur and tails of the small mummies have even been preserved. The chick’s tail is darker in color at its tip and has an almost brush-like appearance.
The authors point out that Sparta lay on her right side with her skull slightly deformed, eyes closed, and mouth open.
Boris had also slightly deformed his skull and turned it to the right. The animal’s limbs were stretched out and, according to the researchers, frozen in motion, “which could indicate that the Boris calf was trying to break free or to find its way to the surface.”
“Perhaps the chicks were buried after a landslide and their bodies were deformed by landmass and permafrost and quickly froze to death into mummies,” say the authors.
Cave lions can be seen in paintings over 30,000 years old in the cave of Chauvet, France. The filmmaker Werner Herzog filmed the inside of the cave from which the work “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams” emerged.
“The discovery of frozen cave lion cubs provides an interesting opportunity to study the bodies of lions that are adapted to cold climates,” the authors say. “This adds valuable physical reconstruction data to what is currently known from French paleolithic cave art.”