Russian researchers have announced the discovery of cave lion cubs found in the Ice Age permafrost of Yakutia, Siberia. The frozen cats are the first of their kind ever found in such a well-preserved state.
At least one of the cats, seen in a photo released with the announcement, is so delicately preserved that even its fur is intact. The kitten has been frozen this way for at least 10,000 years, although the initial report notes that they could be even older.
“As far as I know, there has never been a prehistoric cat found with this level of preservation,” Des Moines University fossil felid expert Julie Meachen says, “so this is truly an extraordinary find.”
The scientists studying the cubs are remaining tight-lipped about the discovery. Sakha Republic Academy of Science paleontologist Albert Protopopov declined to answer questions about the cats, awaiting a scheduled November 17 press conference to release the initial findings. The event will also highlight other spectacular finds made in the region, such as “Yuka” the woolly mammoth.
The cave lion—sometimes called a steppe lion, because it prowled open grasslands rather than staying restricted to rocky dens—is an extinct subspecies of Panthera leo, today’s lion.