The remains of a cave lion cub have been discovered in Siberia and it is wholly possible that this little cub could have fallen into a deep sleep from which it never awoke at least 50,000 years ago. Scientists were astonished to discover that the cave lion cub had been preserved so well in the permafrost that they were able to gaze at different features on its face and even spot its toes. Once again, the issue of cloning was brought up and scientists are currently discussing the very real possibility that this cave lion cub could be cloned at some point in the future.
Local inhabitant Boris Berezhnov was the man responsible for finding the 50,000-year-old cave lion cub alongside the Tirekhtykh River in Yakutia and scientists made his discovery public last Wednesday. While scientists are not currently aware of exactly how the cave lion cub would have perished, they do know that it would have been around two months old when it died and appeared to suffer from no obvious injuries, as paleontologist Albert Protopopov remarked.
“It is a perfectly preserved lion cub, all the limbs have survived. There are no traces of external injuries on the skin.”
Scientists believe that the cave lion cub would have lived long before the last ice age was over as that was the point in which cave lions died off completely and fell into extinction, according to ScienceAlert.
The frozen remains of a cave lion cub likely dating back to the last Ice Age were recently unveiled in Russia. https://t.co/a0XtkB3x7b
— Nat Geo WILD (@natgeowild) November 11, 2017
The remains of the cave lion cub are extremely small, measuring 17.7 inches in length and weighing just eight pounds and its extremely well-preserved condition is a result of the permafrost it was found in. As astounding as this find was, it’s not the first time that the permafrost has hidden a cave lion cub.
The last time this occurred was in 2015 when two cave lion cubs barely past the age of three weeks were discovered in Siberia, but along a different river. These cave lion cub siblings were even found to still have their mother’s milk inside of them after scientists used a CT scan to examine them. The latest cave lion cub found along the Tirekhtykh River is not believed to have any relation to these two, however, as Albert Protopopov explained.
“The cub was found on the river Tirehtakh, it is in a different locality, and it is obviously larger and older than Uyandinsk lions, so they are from different litter.”
Russian local discovers frozen remains of extinct cave lion cub. https://t.co/Yligba76To
— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) November 12, 2017
Because the 50,000-year-old cave lion cub found in Siberia is in such great condition, it is certainly feasible that scientists may at some point attempt to clone it. After all, in 2008 scientists were able to take a frozen mouse that had been dead for 16 years and clone it. Although there is a massive difference between the length of time the mouse and the cave lion cub have been dead, it is believed that its age may not be the most enormous obstacle to overcome.
The biggest barrier to cloning is a moral one and is one which is frequently debated among scientists. While it may sound exciting to bring ancient species of animals back from the dead, it is unknown what sort of implications this would have on the environment and, of course, logical questions such as how you would take a cloned animal and reintroduce it back into the wild remain unanswered.
So while many may be clamoring for scientists to clone this 50,000-year-old Siberian cave lion cub, including some scientists themselves, researchers will have to content themselves for the time being with further examination of this now extinct animal.
[Featured Image by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images]