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Creation 39(2):46–47, April 2017

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Mummified lion cubs in Siberian deep freeze


Two extinct Eurasian cave lion cubs have been recovered from permafrost on the bank of the Uyandina River, Siberia. Flooding and landslides along the river’s banks in the summer of 2015 revealed an ice lens in which the cubs’ remains were spotted. They are thought to have been only a week or two old at death, as their baby teeth had not yet erupted. But they were the size of full-grown domestic cats.

© Siberian Times11825-mummified-cave-lion-cubs1
Two extinct cave lions dug from the bank of the Uyandina River, Siberia

Amazing preservation

“This find, beyond any doubt, is sensational,” said Dr Albert Protopopov, head of the mammoth fauna studies department of the Yakutian Academy of Sciences. The cubs are “complete with all their body parts: fur, ears, soft tissue and even whiskers.” They are, he claimed, unique in the world, the most complete remains of cave lions ever found. “Possibly, the cubs died in a hole, in a landslide, and afterwards this site was never affected by weather,” said the academic. “This is how we explain such unique preservation of the animals.”1 A South Korean research team have taken samples from one of the exquisitely preserved cubs in the hope of cloning the animal.2

© Siberian Times11825-mummified-cave-lion-cubs2
Only a week or two old at death and the size of full-grown domestic cats

No additional felines needed on the Ark

The Eurasian cave lion, Panthera spelaea, about the size of a modern-day Siberian tiger, once roamed everywhere from the British Isles to the Yukon in Canada. Until now, what was known about cave lions came from cave art, such as their images which adorn the Chauvet Cave in France, from detailed carvings, and from their bones. These were mostly located in caves, hence their name.


Previous studies have shown that the modern lion, the extinct American lion and the Eurasian Cave lion, though distinct population groups, were all genetically similar.3 Lions can readily breed with other large cats such as tigers, leopards and jaguars, producing a range of hybrids.4 These include the offspring of a male lion and a tigress, called a liger.5 Weighing in excess of 400 kg (> 900 lb) and up to 3.6 m (12 ft) long (including the tail), it is the largest cat in the world. This hybridization between the large cats suggests that they are likely all descended from the original created cat kind,6 a pair of which would have been aboard Noah’s Ark.7

One more example

In relation to these magnificently preserved cubs, it’s the same old story: remarkable preservation = rapid processes. Whether a dead organism is buried or frozen (or both in succession), to be exceptionally preserved, it must have been fairly quickly removed from the possibility of attack by scavengers and bacteria. In the case of the cubs, a fairly rapid lowering of the temperature was necessary to halt bacterial decay. The subsequent gradual mummification due to lowering of moisture content (think of the drying out of meat inadvertently left in a freezer for years) further enhances the preservation.

This spells catastrophism of one sort or another. Whether in relation to the Genesis Flood, or most likely a catastrophe (like the bursting of a massive ice dam causing a megaflood) at the end of the Ice Age8—itself caused by the disruptions immediately after the Flood—biblical history provides a consistent framework for large forces operating in short periods of time.

Lesser catastrophes do take place, obviously, including within the above two periods. A landslide might well have been involved with the cubs, as speculated. But there is a take-home point in this, as in every case of superb preservation (many examples of which are available on creation.com).9 Namely, that the processes responsible for halting the normally speedy processes of decay must in each instance have involved only very short timescales, best described as sudden. That bears remembering while we are repeatedly bombarded with assumptions involving long ages and slow-and-gradual processes.

Posted on homepage: 6 February 2017

References and notes

  1. Whiskers still bristling after more than 12,000 years in the Siberian cold, Siberian Times, 17 November 2015; siberiantimes.com. Return to text.
  2. Stewart, W., Scientists bid to CLONE Stone Age cave lions after unearthing two 12,000-year-old cubs preserved in Siberian permafrost, dailymail.co.uk; 6 March 2016. Return to text.
  3. Barnett, R., et al, Phylogeography of lions (Panthera leo ssp.) reveals three distinct taxa and a late Pleistocene reduction in genetic diversity, Molecular Ecology, 18(8):1668–1677, 2009. Return to text.
  4. Choi, C.Q., Ligers and tigons, Oh My! Cat lineage littered with interbreeding, livescience.com; 15 January 2015. Return to text.
  5. Batten, D., Ligers and wholphins? What next? Creation 22(3):28–33, 2000; creation.com/ligers-wholphins. Return to text.
  6. Pendragon, B., and Winkler, N., The Family of cats—delineation of the feline basic type, J. Creation 25(2):118–124, 2011; creation.com/cat-kind; Catchpoole, D., Cats big and small, Creation 37(4):34–37, 2015. Return to text.
  7. Sarfati, J., How did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark?, Creation 19(2):16–19, 1997; creation.com/arkanimals. Return to text.
  8. For more on the Ice Age as a direct result of the Flood see: creation.com/ice-age-questions-and-answers. Return to text.
  9. For more examples of remarkable preservation see: Robinson, P., Three become one: Two fish and a pterosaur locked in a fatal struggle, Creation 37(4):38–39, 2015 or Catchpoole, D., Turtles fossilized while mating!; creation.com/fossilized-mating-turtles, 21 June 2012. Return to text.

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Frozen in Time
by Michael J Oard
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