Cave lion, also known as European cave lion or Eurasian cave lion, is the popular name for Panthera Leo spelaea (or P. spelaea), an extinct huge wild felid that existed between 370,000 and 10,000 years ago. The cave ion is distinguished by its massive size, rounded, projecting ears, tufted tail, and maybe faint, tiger-like stripes, as evidenced by fossils and several specimens of archaic art. While most people think of the cave lion as an extinct subspecies of the lion (Panthera leo), others think of it as a different species.
The cave lion thrived in Europe until about the start of the last European Ice Age and was shown in cave paintings and other art alongside Neanderthals (250,000 to 30,000 years ago) and Cro-Magnon man (40,000 to 10,000 years ago). The cave lion was known as one of the main members of the Plesitocene fauna in Eurasia. Various archaeological artifacts indicate that humans were involved in Paleolithic religious ceremonies. They were also being hunted by humans.
The cave lion is known as a member of Panthera genus. The lion, tiger, jaguar, and leopard were the four members of the Panthera family. The cave lion, Panthera Leo spelean, is classified as a subspecies of the lion. Some experts, like Sotnikova and Nikolskiy, Harington, and Vereshchagin, regard the cave lion to be a distinct species, Panthera spelean. Sotnikova and Nikolskiy (2006) based their conclusion that the cave lion is a distinct species on a study of skull features, noting a number of advanced features that suggest independent development from P. Leo. They argue that current molecular evidence adds to the evidence that the cave lion was very different from its extant cousins. Panthera Atrox, a fossil lion from western North America, is also classified as Panthera spelean.
Based on a study of skull morphologies, some authorities believe the cave lion is more closely related to the tiger, leading to the formal name Panthera Tigris spelean. Recent DNA study, on the other hand, reveals that the cave lion was a close cousin of the current lion and leopard. Sotnikova and Nikoskiy found no synapomorphies in the brain anatomy that imply a tight link between cave lions and Panthera tigers.
The cave lion evolved from the older Panthera Leo Fossilis, which originally emerged in Europe around 700,000 years ago but is poorly recorded in European records and is now unknown in Asia. During the Pleistocene period, the cave lion existed from 370,000 to 10,000 years ago. Although there are some indications that it may have existed into historic times in southeastern Europe, as recently as 2,000 years ago in the Balkans, it is thought to have gone extinct around 10,000 years ago during the Würm glaciation.
Cave lions were distributed throughout Europe and Asia throughout the Late Pleistocene, from the United Kingdom, Germany, and France all the way to the Bering Strait, and from Siberia to Turkistan. P. atrox, a closely similar species, was present in North America about the same period.
The demise of cave lions appears to be connected to the Quaternary extinction event, which wiped off the majority of megafauna prey in those areas. Early people hunted them, according to cave paintings and remnants discovered in the rubbish piles of old campsites, which may have led to their death.