One of the largest species of lions that ever lived, the Eurasian cave lion, became extinct around 14,000 years ago. For the first time, a new study finds a possible explanation for the decline of cave lions: hunting by Paleolithic humans. Cueto and colleagues examined nine fossilized cave lion toe bones from the Upper Paleolithic cave site of La Garma in northern Spain. They found evidence placing lion pelts in the caves Paleolithic humans occupied. Since La Garma humans in that era are known to perform rituals, authors of the study speculate that cave lions were hunted for their pelts, which may have contributed to their extinction.


Marián Cueto, Edgard Camarós, Pedro Castaños, Roberto Ontañón, Pablo Arias

Corresponding author:

Marian Cueto, Instituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehistóricas de Cantabria, Universidad de Cantabria, Santander, Spain

Original paper published in PLOS ONE on October 26, 2016.