Herbivorous and carnivorous bears

This is a Dutch TV video about giant pandas in China.

From ScienceDaily:

Prehistoric Bears Also Ate Everything And Anything

(Apr. 8, 2009) — By comparing the craniodental morphology of modern bear species to that of two extinct species, researchers from the University of Málaga have discovered that the expired plantigrades were not so different from their current counterparts. The cave bear, regarded as the great herbivore of the carnivores, was actually more omnivorous than first thought.

The short-faced bear, a hypercarnivore, also ate plants depending on their availability. The work offers key insights into the evolution of the carnivore niches during the Ice Age.

The team of palaeontologists have reconstructed the trophic ecology, or eating habits, of two extinct bear species that lived during the Pleistocene (between 2.59 million and 12,000 years ago): the short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) of North America and the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) of Europe. The morphometric analysis carried out on the eight bear species in existence today has confirmed that prehistoric bears were not fussy eaters. …

The study, published recently in the Journal of Zoology, focuses on two species of prehistoric bear because scientists believed that they had disparate feeding preferences. It was presumed that the short-faced bear was a carnivore and the cave bear an herbivore; ‘probably the most herbivorous species of the Ursus genus’, asserts Figueirido.

‘The study has revealed that the craniodental morphologies of these two bears are more suited to the omnivorous diet than the specialised diet previously put forward’, the researcher points out. …

Today there are cases of bears with specialised eating habits. From a morphological and ecological perspective, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), exclusively carnivorous, and the panda bear (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), strictly herbivorous, have the greatest challenge to change their eating habits in the face of climatic change. ‘Although not as specialised as that of a lion, if the few resources that the giant panda and the polar bear depend on were to disappear, their situation would be complicated’, confirms Figueirido.

On the association of giant short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) and brown bear (Ursus arctos) in late Pleistocene North America: here.

How the giant panda lost its taste for flesh: here.

Plan to reintroduce giant pandas to the wild: here.

10 thoughts on “Herbivorous and carnivorous bears

  1. Fossils of Extinct Bear Species Found in Mexico

    November 6th, 2010, 11:04 GMT| By Smaranda Biliuti

    Skull of Arctotherium, a bear species that disappeared 11,300 years ago

    Four complete skulls and jaws of a Pleistocene bear species called Arctotherium, that disappeared 11,300 years ago, were found by aquatic archaeologists in a submerged cave on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.

    The 25-30 cm long skulls discovered at 42 meters underwater, belong to two adult bears – one of each sex – and two bears that had not reached full maturity.

    The discovery was made by Guillermo de Anda Alanis and his team from the Yucatan Autonomous University, while they were diving in a cavern, as part of the project authorized by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) “El Culto al Cenote en el Centro de Yucatan” (Cult to Cenote in Central Yucatan).

    Guillermo de Anda Alanis said that the fossils were found between the towns of Sotuta and Homun, in Yucatan, spread on a 120 meters diameter surface.

    The four skulls seem to belong to a family of bears of the same species, because the 2 adult skulls belonged to a male and a female, and the 2 other did not reach full development.

    The preliminary investigations of the fossils were made in situ, but further research is necessary, artdaily reports.

    What is known until now, is that these are the only specimens of their type found until now in this region of the country, and they add to the few Prehistorical animals discovered in this type of water bodies, which were dry caves before glaciations.

    These fossils challenge the biogeography of bears in the Americas, since Arctotherium was previously known to only have lived in South America.

    De Anda said that at first the remains were thought to have belonged to jaguars, but archaeozoologist Christopher Gotz from Yucatan Autonomous University carried out the morphological identification of the skulls, and confirmed they belonged to bears, because of their strong, flat and wide molars.

    Gotz said that species related to Arctotherium in America are the extinct North American short-faced bears(Arctodus simus and pristinus), the Florida short-faced (Tremarctos floridanus), the Mexico short-faced (Tremarctos mexicanus) and the last survivor that lives in South America, the Andean short-faced bear (tremarctos ornatus).

    Besides the bear fossils, the archaeologists also found skeletal remains of five humans, and further dating of these skeletons should establish if the two discoveries are connected.

    De Anda said that “this research is only beginning, and it will most likely provide important data for the knowledge of the first species that inhabited the region, as well as of the historical periods to which human remains yet to be analyzed belong.

    “We are looking forward to confirm after analyses that the remains correspond to that genus, since it would enlarge the knowledge regarding this animal’s natural history and their relation with their closer relatives.”

    He announced the details of the discovery at the International Congress American Cultures and their Environment: Perspectives from Zoo Archaeology, Paleo Botanic and Ethno Biology, organized by the Yucatan Autonomous University in Merida, Yucatan.

    Copyright © 2001-2010 Softpedia.


  2. 10:59 AM Jan 26, 2011

    ETSU paleontologist studies huge bear fossil

    A paleontologist at East Tennessee State University has helped identify the fossil remains of a huge bear.

    JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) — A paleontologist at East Tennessee State University has helped identify the fossil remains of a huge bear.

    Dr. Blaine Schubert went to South America to examine the remains of a short-faced bear that roamed North America during the Ice Age.

    According to a news release from the university, the remains were discovered some 75 years ago in La Plata City, Argentina, but had been unstudied.

    He and other researchers believe the bear weighed as much as 3,500 pounds. They have written an article for the latest issue of the Journal of Paleontology.

    Schubert is director of the Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology and faculty member in the Department of Geosciences.

    (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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