No one knows just what these long-gone lions looked like. As Cueto said, "It's not easy describing the fur of an animal extinct in the Pleistocene because we have only recovered its skeleton."
The cave lion's skeleton is bigger but otherwise identical to modern lions, so scientists assume the animals would have looked pretty similar.
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She added, however, that cave lions were included in cave paintings. Drawings of lions appear on the walls of caves at Chauvet (France), for example. Prehistoric figurines from Vogelherd Cave (Germany) also exist.
"In all of them," she said, "the male cave lions lacked manes."
She and her team describe La Garma is being a "time machine" that preserves many aspects of early European caveman life. Future studies may reveal more about the ancient European's culture, and what exactly they were doing with the painstakingly-worked lion pelts.
Image: Illustration showing European cave lions over reindeer prey and surrounded by woolly mammoths and early horses in an Ice Age landscape. Credit: Mauricio Anton, PLOS Biology, Wikimedia Commons