To reconstruct the phylogenetic position of the extinct cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea), we sequenced 1 kb of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene from two Pleistocene cave lion DNA samples (47 and 32 ky B.P.). Phylogenetic analysis shows that the ancient sequences form a clade that is most closely related to the extant lions from Africa and Asia; at the same time, cave lions appear to be highly distinct from their living relatives. Our data show that these cave lion sequences represent lineages that were isolated from lions in Africa and Asia since their dispersal over Europe about 600 ky B.P., as they are not found among our sample of extant populations. The cave lion lineages presented here went extinct without mitochondrial descendants on other continents. The high sequence divergence in the cytochrome b gene between cave and modern lions is notable. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.