A South Korean scientist wants to clone an extinct 12,000-year-old cave lion

south korea to clone extinct siberian cave lions lion 3
Vera Salnitskaya
After paleontologists uncovered the permafrosted bodies of two ancient cave lions in Russia last summer, a team of scientists in South Korea has now taken to the task of attempting to clone the now-extinct animal. Led by South Korean cloning expert Hwang Woo-Suk, the team hopes to use samples of skin and muscle tissue gathered from one of the cubs to complete the ambitious experiment. Surprisingly, this won’t be Woo-Suk’s first rodeo with attempting to clone an extinct species, as he’s also currently working towards resurrecting a wooly mammoth. Haven’t any of these people watched the movie, Jurassic Park?

When the cubs were discovered last year, paleontologists surmised the lions were roughly 12,000 years old and died after living for just one or two weeks. Dr. Albert Protopopov, Yakutian Academy of Sciences’ head of mammoth fauna studies and one of the scientists to help with the initial finding, says his organization plans to keep the preserved cubs “for the future.” The academy allowed Woo-Suk and his team to retrieve the small samples though they originally asked for a large piece of the skull or one of the cubs’ entire legs. According to Protopopov, this created a bit of controversy between the two parties.

cave-lion-south-korea-1
Galina Mozolevskaya/YSIA
Galina Mozolevskaya/YSIA

“The dispute arose from the fact the researchers, as always, want to be completely sure and take more tissue, and I can understand them,” Protopopov tells the Siberian Times. “But the lion is not fully preserved and there are not so many tissues. We have planned other studies, so it is important to preserve the original morphology of the remains. Such disputes are normal in all studies, and in the end we came to a compromise.”

Despite the tiff, Woo-Suk and his group managed to collect enough tissue samples they hope will allow them to successfully clone the cub, but acknowledged more advanced technology may be needed. In addition to Protopopov’s intent to run other studies on the specimen, the fact each cub is so small — and highly degradable — forced the Yakutian Academy to greatly restrict the samples allowed.

“Comparing with modern lion cubs, we think that these two were very small, maybe a week or two old,” Protopopov said. “The eyes were not quite open, they have baby teeth and not all appeared.”

cave-lion-south-korea-2
Yakutsk.ru, Galina Mozolevskaya/YSIA
Yakutsk.ru, Galina Mozolevskaya/YSIA

Found roughly 650 miles northeast of Yakutsk in the Sakha Republic, the lions were initially spotted after a brief rise in temperature last summer. The higher than usual heat allowed for cracks in some of the area’s permafrost which allowed a local worker to spot the cubs hidden inside. After analyzing the area, Protopopov believes the cubs were placed inside the cave by their mother for protection before a landslide covered the cave and sealed the pups inside. This specific breed of cave lion is known to have lived during the middle and late-Pleistocene era in the far east area of Russia.

In addition to Woo-Suk’s attempt at cloning the creature, further studies hope to uncover why exactly the species ultimately became extinct roughly 10,000 years ago despite their lack of predators. Autopsies of the cave lions are reportedly scheduled to occur later this year.

Movies & TV

Chernobyl: 10 burning questions we still have after watching the HBO miniseries

If you're like us, after watching the HBO miniseries about the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, you still have many burning questions about what really happened. Here are some answers to those the series doesn't cover.
Movies & TV

Skip the sunshine this summer and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (June 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had an unusual production process, editor says

Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker's first teaser trailer and plot details have arrived. Here's everything we know about the movie before it premieres in December 2019.
Emerging Tech

This drone with hands looks like a nightmare straight out of Black Mirror

This unlikely drone-with-hands creation is the work of Federico Ciccarese, the brains behind YouBionic, a bionic hand project that has evolved far beyond its original brief. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

This crazy-looking robot uses microspines on its legs to climb up walls

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have built a bioinspired robot, which uses microspines on its feet to grip onto rough surfaces. This allows it to climb up very steep gradients. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Got $400 million to burn? The world’s largest airplane is up for sale

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane, is up for sale. All it'll cost you is $400 million dollars. The brainchild of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plane was supposed to make space travel more accessible and affordable.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.
Emerging Tech

Adobe develops tool to identify Photoshopped images of faces

With deepfake videos making headlines, and campaigns against the Photoshopping of models, people are more aware than ever of the digital manipulation of images. Now Adobe wants to give tools to users to let them spot faked images.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for manned missions to Mars

Survival on Mars is a massive challenge for humanity. To cope with the highly variable temperatures, lack of oxygen and water, and high levels of radiation, the Mars 2020 rover will carry instruments to pave the way for human exploration.
Emerging Tech

Facebook builds virtual homes to train A.I. agents in realistic environments

Researchers at Facebook have created Habitat, which is a platform that enables rapid training for A.I. agents. They will receive thousands of hours of training in just a few minutes in the virtual homes.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods struggles to keep up with Impossible Burger demand

Red Robin and White Castle have reported Impossible Burger shortages, as it appears that Impossible Foods is struggling to keep up with demand. The company will be selling its meat-like patties in retail outlets within the year.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!