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Scientists looking at bringing extinct cave lions back to life

November 10, 2017, 19:45 UTC+3 YAKUTSK

The remains of a cave lion cub were discovered this summer in Yakutia during mining works

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© REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

YAKUTSK, November 10. /TASS/. Researchers in the Department of Mammoth Fauna Studies at the Yakutian Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk, Russia's Siberia, are looking at bringing extinct cave lions back to life.

The press service of the Yakutian Academy of Sciences said on Friday the mammoth fauna department had received the remains of a cave lion cub discovered this summer in Yakutia during mining works.

"Traditional cloning, when a living cell nucleus is transplanted into an egg cell, is impossible in this case. However, researchers are working on DNA reconstruction and hypothetically a reconstructed cave lion DNA can be transplanted into the DNA of a living lion. And since the cave lion is most closely related to the African lion, the chances for resurrecting cave lions are much higher than in the case of, say, mammoths which have no close relatives but for the Indian elephant," the press service cited Alber Protopopov, the department’s director.

According to earlier reports, researchers of the Mammoth Museum at Russia’s Northeastern Federal University jointly with partners from South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation are trying to clone a mammoth. Earlier this year, South Korean scientists presented two cloned puppies of the Yakut Laika dog, which went extinct in the 1950s after an epidemic.

Cave lions, or Panthera leo spelaea, roamed the Eurasian continent, from Britain to the extreme east of Russia, as well as Alaska and north western Canada in the Middle and Late Pleistocene epoch (300,000-10,000 years ago). These cats received their name not because it lived in caves, but because their skeletons were found in cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) habitats. Being opportunistic predators, cave lions preyed on hibernating cave bears, along with lots of other mammals.

By now, only three well preserved cave lion carcasses have been unearthed, all of them in Yakutia. The first two, several-months-old cubs, were discovered in August 2015 in permafrost deposits in the Uyandina River basin in Yakutia.

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