Russian scientists have displayed the remains of two ancient cave lion cubs found preserved in permafrost. Dubbed Uyan and Dina, the unfortunate pair died just a few weeks after birth. Scientists say they’re the most complete remains of this extinct species ever found—whiskers and all.

As The Siberian Times reports, the cubs, who were about the size of full-grown domestic cats when they died, were shown to the media earlier today in a permafrost cave in Yakutsk, Siberia. The cubs were placed on giant slabs of ice to ensure their preservational integrity.

Russian paleontologists found the cubs in Siberia’s Abyisky district on the banks of the Uyandina River, hence the names Uyan and Dina. This a very cold and northerly region located just below the Arctic Circle. The cubs were discovered by an astute scientist who noticed something embedded within a crack that had opened up due to the summer rise in river level.

(Credit: Vera Salnitskaya/Siberian Times)

Advertisement

Advertisement

The cubs died only a few weeks after their birth, their eyes still not fully open. The scientists speculate that they died in a hole following a landslide. The den was sealed off from the outside, thus contributing to the exquisite preservation.

Each cub is fully intact, including the presence of soft tissue and all internal organs. Looking ahead, the researchers are planning to perform a genetic analysis, radiocarbon dating, and an MRI scan to learn more about the cave lion species, which went extinct some 12,000 years ago. It’s quite possible that the lions are older than the initial estimate.

(Credit: Vera Salnitskaya/Siberian Times)

Advertisement

The paleontologists quickly dismissed the idea that the DNA extracted from the cubs might be used for cloning, adding that such speculation was grossly premature. It has been suggested that woolly mammoths might someday be brought back by decoding DNA found preserved in frozen specimens.

(Credit: Vera Salnitskaya/Siberian Times)

Advertisement

Cave lions, or Panthera spelaea, lived during the Middle and Late Pleistocene eras. Their territory ranged across Eurasia, from the British Isles to Chutotka in the extreme east of Russia. They also lived in North America in what is now Alaska and northwestern Canada. Dwindling prey may have contributed to their eventual demise.

(Credit: Vera Salnitskaya/Siberian Times)

Advertisement

Read the entire article at The Siberian Times, where you will find many more photos.


Email the author at george@gizmodo.com and follow him at @dvorsky. Top image by Vera Salnitskaya