The Cave Lion and Modern Lions Turned Out to Be Different Species

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The cave lion was divided into two subspecies. Researchers on the prehistoric baby cave lion carrion found in Siberia; showed us that the extinct cave lions are different from today’s lions. This discovery also showed that these wild Ice Age predators were divided into 2 subspecies, eastern and western.

The cave lion was found in Northern Eurasia, Alaska, and the Yukon Territories during the Late Pleistocene (Geological Period) until it went extinct 14,000 years ago.

Scientists have long debated where these great cave lions were found in the pedigree. These discussions divided scientists into 3 different views:

  • Cave lions are a subspecies of modern lions.
  • Cave lions are an independent species from other lions.
  • Cave lions are closer to the tiger in terms of their features.

Researchers at the Center for Paleogenetics in Sweden had the opportunity to examine the evolutionary history of cave lions by comparing the mitochondrial genome of 31 samples taken from prehistoric times in Scientific Reports magazine.

One of these specimens is the cave lion named “Spartak” which has been perfectly preserved in the deep glaciers of Siberia. The 28,000-year-old “Spartak” is shown as the best-preserved animal discovered during the Ice Age.

These discoveries show that the cave lions (Panthera spelaea) are indeed a separate species from the present-day lions (Panthera Leo) found in the lower Sahara region in Africa today.

The cave lion was divided into two subspecies.

These exciting developments showed that the cave lion descended from the same ancestor as modern lions 1.85 million years ago, and split into 2 different species half a million years ago.

While one of these species lived in Europe, a different species, also known as the Beringia Lion, is among those known to live in Yakutia, Alaska, and the land bridge between Eurasia and America in Northern Asia.

There are some differences between cave lions and modern lions. These are examples where cave lions are larger than today’s lions and cave lions may not have a mane.

In the samples taken from the skull and mouth samples of the cave lions, which also have differences in themselves, it was noticed that the Beringia cave lion was much smaller than the European cave lion.

Considering the studies on the diet of cave lions, scientists have argued that Bergenia lions mostly hunt bison and horse, while European lions hunt deer.

David Stanton, lead author and former Marie Curie member at the Center for Paleogenetics:

“We are now moving on with further genetic analysis where we aim to sequence the complete nuclear genomes to investigate which genes make cave lions cave lions.” He expressed his opinions about the future of research using his words.