The likely “best preserved ice age animal ever found” is an extinct lion cub that has its claws, teeth, organs, and more still intact. The mummified cub was discovered eastern Russian permafrost and has been dated back to around 28,000 years ago. The original study was released on August 4th, 2021 in the international, peer-reviewed journal Quaternary.
The cub has been named “Sparta” and she was found near another cub who has been named “Boris”. Mammoth tusk collectors made the discoveries along the Semyuelyakh River in 2017 and 2018. Boris was named after the collector who found him in 2017, Boris Berezhnev. Sparta was found in the following year only 15 meters away from where Boris was discovered.
“Sparta is probably the best preserved Ice Age animal ever found, and is more or less undamaged apart from the fur being a bit ruffled. She even had the whiskers preserved. Boris is a bit more damaged, but still pretty good.”
Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden
Bone remains of mammoths, wolves, woolly rhinoceroses, brown bears, and other common animals of the region from that time period were also found at the site.
The two cubs are estimated to be about 1 to 2 months old and were originally thought to be siblings. The radiocarbon dates have the researchers convinced otherwise. Sparta dated to around 28,000 years old but Boris dated to around 43,500 years old. This would place Boris’ death some 15,500 years further back in time than Sparta’s.
It makes me wonder how valid these carbon dating results are. I figure the odds are low that two cubs around the same age would die in almost the same spot some 15,000 years apart.
A mummified bird was also found near the cubs and dated to around 44,000-48,000 years old, which almost places it in the same time as Boris.
The experts believe climate change is assisting with these new finds. As the ice is melting away, long lost remains are being found.
 – Boeskorov, et al. “The Preliminary Analysis of Cave Lion Cubs Panthera spelaea (Goldfuss, 1810) from the Permafrost of Siberia” (4 Aug. 2021). Quaternary 2021, 4(3), 24; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4030024. Accessed 14 Aug. 2021.
 – Hunt, Katie. “Perfectly preserved cave lion cub found frozen in Siberia is 28,000 years old. Even its whiskers are intact.” (5 Aug. 2021). https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/05/world/frozen-cave-lion-cubs-siberia-scn/index.html. Accessed 14 Aug. 2021.
 – Reuters. “Cave lion cub found in Siberian permafrost is 28,000 years old” (13 Aug. 2021). https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/cave-lion-cub-found-siberian-permafrost-is-28000-years-old-2021-08-13/. Accessed 14 Aug. 2021.