An extinct cave lion cub has been found in the Siberian permafrost in ‘perfect condition’ after almost 50,000 years.
The extraordinary discovery has sparked a discussion over cloning the cat – after scientists were able to see its facial features and the toes on its paws because it was so perfectly preserved.
The find was unveiled in Yakutsk in the Sakha Republic, a federal subject of Russia.
Scientists believe the ancient lion, yet to be named, was aged between six and eight weeks old when it died for unknown reasons.
Measuring just 45 centimetres (17.7 inches) long and weighing a mere four kilograms (8.8 pounds), the cub is quite small.
It was preserved because of permafrost – a layer of ground that’s permanently below freezing temperature.
“It is a perfectly preserved lion cub, all the limbs have survived,” Dr Albert Protopopov, a palaeontologist at the Sakha Republic Academy of Sciences, told The Siberian Times. “There are no traces of external injuries on the skin.”
European or Eurasian cave lions were once the largest big cats on the planet.
They lived in the cold regions in the northern hemisphere before they were wiped out.
Scientists are yet to figure out why they died off.
The new finding comes after the remains of a pair of cave lion cubs, just a few weeks old, were discovered in the permafrost of the same region in 2015.