Yakutia, 45,000 years ago
It is late autumn, and while there is no frost yet present, it is visibly cold, and the grass has lost its green. The willow shrubs have shed their leaves, and retain only their woody branches.
We meet with Indigirka, our young cave lioness (Panthera spelaea spelaea). In a small hollow formed from the collapsing sediments in the Uyandina river, Indigirka has sought shelter, where she has successfully given birth to two small cubs, Uyan and Dina.
However, her inexperience will get the best of her, for her den is built from very unstable sediment, and is very prone to collapse like how it was first exposed. This is not a place for a lioness to hide her cubs.
As I found out about a month ago, Protopopov et al. finally published an informative abstract + information chart, on the preliminary analyses of the frozen cave lion cubs, i.e. measurements, appearance, age, cause of death, and so forth for SVP 2016:
The most complete cub, Uyan, weighed about 2.8kg, substantially more that what African lion cubs weigh (up to 2.1kg). No surprises there, they were larger in general anyway.
Appearance-wise, we know that the cubs had very small ears and a shorter tail as compared to African lion cubs, likely as an adaptation to the cold. They also had larger paws than them, possibly as snowshoe feet, but the exact function is uncertain at the moment.
In terms of pelage patterns, their coat was remarkably plain, bar a few spots atop the head. The cubs seemed to have lacked countershading, as their body was of a yellowish light brown colour both dorsally and ventrally, and there was no dorsal stripe as is seen in African lion cubs + adults. Their limbs were a darker shade of brown than their body, and there was some dark fur on the chin and around the mouth.
Their deformations likely point to them being killed swiftly by the collapse of their den, rather than by slow suffocation or hypothermia.
The lioness is meant to be a young one, 2-3 years of age, around the age African lionesses first have cubs. I used the most complete cave lion skeleton to date, the Srbsko-Chlum lioness, as a reference for the proportions of this lioness (as shown in the WIP) (sta.sh/0255xprx3um1
), which is also a young lioness around 2-3 years of age at the time of death. In addition the Peștera Urșilor lioness skull was used loosely as reference.
IMO her eyes are too red in colour, I should have adjusted that.
Her pelage pattern is basically the summation of my current position on cave lion appearance, colour-wise and in terms of other notable markings. I'm on the fence between a dramatic hue shift and size stripe. In this instance I use a side-stripe mediating the golden brown torso and white underbelly which is transitional and more saturated in hue between the two furs, rather than being darker as Guthrie (2005) depicted: sta.sh/022d9wp8icir and is not well-defined from above but from below.
I didn't give her a dorsal stripe like African lions; maybe I should have, just darker fur on top which isn't well defined.
And since the Uyandina river is a tributary of the Indigirka river, I made Indigirka the lioness the mother or Uyan and Dina. Yeah I don't know crap about Russian grammar though so maybe it's not even a female noun or someshitlikethat XD.
Since they are dated to the Karginian interstadial (MIS 3), I did some research on the environment. Though, no precise 14C dates exist, but I put them at 45,000 years ago in the early Karginian. Willow shrubs (Salix) and mugworts (genus Artemisia) were present alongside mostly grasses and sedges, essentially mainly steppe, though late Karginian climate was a bit warmer and moister with more shrubs, possibly some trees IIRC.
Yeah, I took a long while in adding texture to the dirt. At first I just used specialised brushes, but I then moved on to stipple with the normal roundtip brush for shading and lighting. The roots above were initially supposed to be straw-coloured, but after turning the layer mode to luminosity, the colour looked more satisfying. The same was true for the "fossilised" grass, but I adjusted the hue to a redder one which I found more suitable. The bundles of grass in the wall are supposed to be ancient deceased arctic ground squirrel nests.
Random mammoth tusk sticking out of the exposed bank sediment.
And yeah the river is pretty poorly done, water isn't my strength.