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Skull of a cave lion found in Yakutia

  • Published in Nature
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The skull was found by the workers of breeding farm for bison not far from the estuary of the Ust-Buotama River.

The remains of a predator of the Pleistocene era were found three kilometers away from where the river Buotama flows into the Lena River. They were handed over to Gennady Boeskorov, PhD of Biology, who made its species identification.

Cave lions were heavyset predators which existed at one and the same time with mammoths, wooly rhinoceros, musk-oxen and other animals of mega-fauna. Not so long ago other trace fossils were found, too. When the scientists examined the carcass of a well-known baby-mammoth Yuka, exhibited in Vladivistok now, they found cuts made by primitive tribes and cave lions’ spoor.TheDirectorate of biological resources and specially protected natural areas of the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic explains that the single bones of cave lions previously were found in more than ten locations of the region.Thus, bones a lion previously were found in more than ten places of the northern and central regions of Yakutia, including the New Siberian Islands (Grand Lyakhov and islands of Anjou), the Mohoho River (tributary of the  Olenek River), Duva Yar of the Kolyma River, in the estuary of the Syuryuktyah River (tributary of the Indigirka River) and in the basins of the Aldan and Vilyuy Rivers.Based on these findings, they were made even within the Arctic Ocean; one can say that cave lions used to inhabit the territory of present Yakutia almost everywhere.

Cave or Pleistocene lion (Panthera leo spelaea) - an extinct subspecies of lion which inhabited Europe and Siberia in the Ice Age.  It was one of the biggest cats of all time. The Soviet paleontologists used to call it tigerlion.

In Yakutia together with a cave lion disappeared mammoths, woolly rhinoceros and musk oxen. It has been proved that people lived here hundreds of thousands of years, but in America they appeared only 15-20 thousand years ago.There, they just couldn’t be able to completely eliminate all animals next to them.In Yakutia for about ten thousand years the global climate change had been taking place - became warmer, rainfall increased, landscapes and the flora greatly changed.From the south taiga started to attack, from the north - swamps, arctic steppe was replaced by the Arctic tundra, the living space of animals decreased. New conditions had become unsuitable for the so-called "mammoth" fauna and that foodchain slowly began to disappear.

Side by side with cave lions there would be a lot of short-legged bison. Now the Yakut ecologists work on re-acclimatization of their descendants in the region - wood bison imported from Canada. Breeding of these animals is located right on the Buotama River. To date, the number of forest buffalo is gradually increasing.