Last month it was made public that the best preserved remains ever discovered of the long extinct Cave Lion had been found in the remote region of Sakha (Yakutia) Republic of Siberia. The two Cave Lion cubs were celebrated as a ‘sensational’ find due to the fact that they were almost perfectly preserved with fur and tissue still intact. Interestingly, digging up species from another time can sometimes come with hazards, in the form of ancient diseases like anthrax, fortunately the cubs remains were tested after being discovered and cleared of any dangerous pathogens.
The reveal finally happened this week when the cubs were proudly displayed for the media and the world. The cubs will be given names in honor of Uyandina river where they were found: Uyan and Dina if male and female; Uyana and Dina if both are found to be females; or, Uyan and Din if they are both males. Further testing will now commence to determine the actual cubs age, however they are thought to be at least 12,000 years old.
At time of death the cubs eyes were not fully open and some of their ‘baby teeth’ had come in. Due to their excellent state of preservation Scientist speculate that they could have possibly died soon after being born and hidden in a hole. The area could have been covered by a landslide protecting and sealing the cubs off from the elements, the permafrost would have then prevented any further deterioration.
Although the news report said scientist weren’t going to discuss ‘cloning’ at this time, as their main goal was to “decipher the genome and work with it”, it doesn’t sound like they have completely discounted the idea altogether. While the glimpse these two cubs may give us into the species and their long-lost world is utterly fascinating, I don’t believe we have a right to try to bring back any long ago extinct species when our current ones are struggling to survive. Modern Lions, and other wildlife, face so many threats and are so perilously close to extinction today we should learn what we can from the past but not resurrect it.
In the meantime Scientist are looking to work with specialist who are “experienced in the research of cubs” and, investigate the special adaptations the Cave Lions developed in order to survive in the extreme, harsh and cold climate. Next year researchers plan to return to the same site to search for the possible remains of a third cub and maybe the Lioness.
Discoveries like this one will often touch on the topic of cloning. Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below – cloning a long ago extinct species: good or bad idea?