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Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

Meet Sparta, the ‘best preserved ice age animal ever found’

By Olga Gertcyk
09 August 2021

International research team publish a detailed study into two cave lion cubs found in Yakutia

Sparta, earlier named 'Spartak' and originally believed to be male, was discovered in 2018. Picture: The Siberian Times

Thus far, there are only four finds of cave lion cubs, 'all in varying states of preservation', and Sparta 'is arguably the best preserved Ice Age animal ever found', according to the Centre for Paleogenetics in Stockholm.

Sparta, earlier named 'Spartak' and originally believed to be male, was discovered in 2018, only 15 metres from the previous find, a mummified body of a cave lion cub named 'Boris'. 

They seemed to be siblings but the new research establishes beyond doubt that they are not: indeed, they were born and died 15,000 years apart. 

Cave lion cub Boris


Cave lion cub Sparta

Boris (top) and Sparta (bottom) seemed to be siblings but the new research establishes they were born and died 15,000 years apart. Pictures: The Siberian Times

After an extensive study, a team of scientists from France, Japan, Russia, and Sweden, published their findings in the Special Issue Advances in Quaternary Studies journal.

They confirmed that although the pups were found in close proximity on the Semyuelyakh River, Yakutia, and 'have similar individual ages, 1-2 months old', they, in fact, do not belong to the same litter, and were born 15,000 years apart. 

Sparta and Boris

Photos of lion cubs’ heads from the side: (c) Sparta; (d) Boris. Picture: Centre for Paleogenetics

'Radiocarbon dating showed that although both individuals lived during the Late Pleistocene, Boris was estimated to have been born between 43,059 and 43,837 years ago, while Sparta lived between 27,853 and 28,071 years ago.

With computed tomography and molecular analysis it has also been confirmed that Sparta is female, and Boris is male.

Researchers were able to conduct CT examination which allowed them to 'non-destructively obtain anatomical features of the body such as the skeletal shape and the residual state of soft tissues', and to construct 3D models of Boris and Sparta.

Sparta skin and spine CT

The tomographic images of Sparta’s body from the left side: (a) skin; (b) skull and spine. Picture: Centre for Paleogenetics

Teeth that they had do not correlate with small head and body size, 'which indicates that the postnatal development of cave lion cubs was much faster than that of a contemporary lion cub.'

According to scientists, the reason why cave lion pups had to grow faster and be able to eat meat at a younger age, may be due to the short summer and harsher winters. 

Sparta CT

3D image of Sparta is sectioned to show the inside structure. Green arrow shows the location of the uterus-like organ. Picture: Centre for Paleogenetics

Sparta and Boris also have thicker undercoat that distinguishes them from modern lions.

'It covers the body of a cave lion cub evenly and most likely helped cave lion cubs adapt to the cold climate.'

While having similar hair length and thick undercoat, Boris and Sparta's coat colours are different.

'Interestingly, although Sparta is a similar age to Boris, her fur has more reddish and brown shades, and it is darker and more saturated than Boris’s fur. 

'The primary colour of Boris’s fur is a lighter, yellowish grey.

'It has to be noted that the youngest cave lion cub (found on the Uyandina River in 2015), had an evenly coloured fur of a yellowish-brown shade, without grey undertones, and part of its hair was dark brown on the ends. 

'This lion cub was assumed to be 1 to 2 weeks old, suggesting that this type of hair colour was typical for younger cubs.

'Since Sparta is a female, this could be an indication that the juvenile colour of the fur was preserved in the cubs of female cave lions for a longer time.'

Boris 2D

2D image of Boris’ inside structure. Green arrows show the testicle-like organs. Picture: Centre for Paleogenetics

It is noted that since both cubs were preserved in the frozen earth, 'it is likely that hair colour was the same when they were alive.'

Scientists have highlighted that the mummies had no damage inflicted by predators and scavengers which may indicate Sparta and Boris, died in their den under the snow or the earth. 

'Maybe the cubs were buried under the ground following a landslide, and their bodies were deformed by the earth’s mass and permafrost features and froze quickly to become mummies.'

Yakutia, also known as the Republic of Sakha, is the largest region in the Russian Federation, and the coldest permanently inhabited region in the world.

Scientists have highlighted that the mummies had no damage inflicted by predators and scavengers which may indicate Sparta and Boris, died in their den under the snow or the earth. Pictures: The Siberian Times

Boris cave lion


Boris cave lion


Boris cave lion


Cave lion cub Sparta


Sparta cave lion cub

Comments (3)

awwwww, it looks like it is sleeping
Uri Berkovitz-Swartz, Kotkino Коткино
13/09/2021 06:27
0
0
This is new to me. I am now learning about life before Adam and Eve.
bill inge, USA, Ohio
12/08/2021 12:42
7
7
15k consensus years apart calibrated for the strongest science could be the same year, certainly w/in a decade, when taking statistical margin of error into account, as The ice ages set in 1657 anno-mundi cause and effect due to The Mabul impacts year, and spanned 340 years, till about 1996, not millions of years. 43k to 28k YA calibrates to shortly prior or just after the birth of Abraham (1948-2123). So Nimrod, or the like, could have hunted / slain the parent/s of these cubs.
referenc ethe Pearlman YeC series for teh alignment of Torah Testimony, science and ancient civ.
roger m pearlman, United States
10/08/2021 02:09
4
12
1

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