Science and Health

Remains Of Ancient Horses, Lions, Found In Wyo. Cave

Researchers in Wyoming have discovered thousands of well- preserved fossils at the bottom of Natural Trap Cave.

Remains Of Ancient Horses, Lions, Found In Wyo. Cave
daryl_mitchell / CC BY-SA 2.0

Lions and tiger and bears — oh my. 

Well in this case it's more like lions, horses, cheetahs and bison. But don't be afraid — researchers believe these particular animals haven't roamed the Earth for about 100,000 years. 

The remains of these ancient animals were discovered in Wyoming's Natural Trap Cave. (Video via YouTube / Australian Centre for Ancient DNA)

Located in Bighorn Canyon National Park the Natural Trap Cave is 80-feet deep and 15-feet wide at the entry. "Over 30,000 specimens have been collected from the cave over the years, mostly from extinct animals."

Among those — the North American Lion, one of the largest cats ever to exist. It's believed to be about 20 percent bigger then the modern day African Lion. Many other animals, including the remains of smaller ones like birds and lizards, were also found but have yet to be properly examined. (Video via History Channel

"What's unusual about this cave is a very high concentration of very strange carnivores, most people wouldn't even know about."  

The News Ledge notes, since the caves discovery in the 70s, officials have blocked off its entrance to keep people and animals from falling through — which is exactly what's believed to have happened to the animals paleontologist have discovered. 

"Over the millennium thousands of animals have fallen to their deaths. ... Preserved below the surface are bones dating all the way back to the Ice Age."  

As fossils are discovered researchers from Des Moines University bring the bones back to be examined. But there's something very special about the preservation of these fossils. 

As Viral Global News reports, the cave's cool and moist atmosphere aided in preserving the bone — many of which were found buried safely under about 30 feet of sediment. The "temperatures proved ideal for ensuring the DNA remained intact over such an extensive period." 

One researcher told CNN, "Some of the bones we're finding there have collagen in them. That is where you could get the ancient DNA. ... There is so much to dig. We have two more years for funding that we can be out there, so we are going to try to dig up as much as we can." 

The study of the Natural Trap Cave is the first in more than 30 years. Researchers say a big goal is to find out more about the DNA structure of the now extent animals, along with other information like their diet.