Cave Bear

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Cave Bear
Conservation status: Extinct (c. 8000 BC)
Missing image
Ursus-spelaeus_Höhlenbär.jpg



Cave Bear skeleton
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Carnivora
Family:Ursidae
Genus:Ursus
Species:U. spelaeus
Binomial name
Ursus spelaeus
Rosenmüller, 1794

The Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus) was a species of bear which lived in Europe during the Pleistocene and became extinct at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

Both the name Cave Bear and the scientific name spelaeus derive from the fact that fossils of this species were mostly found in caves, indicating that this species spent more time in caves than the Brown Bear which only uses caves for hibernation. Many caves in Europe have skeletons of cave bears on display, for example the Heinrichshöhle in Hemer or the Dechenhöhle in Iserlohn, Germany.

Being about 30% bigger than the Brown Bear, the most notable difference between the two species is the steeper forehead of the cave bear. It was an omnivore, eating herbs, grass, berries, but also honey and occasionally small animals.

The change of climate at the end of the Würm Ice Age changed the flora significantly, however far from the first time an ice age had ended and a human role in the extinction is possible.

It is suspected that cave bears were worshipped by some prehistoric Europeans, and shrines and altars have been found with cave bear-like carvings. A fictional interpretation of such worship can be found in Jean M. Auel's novel The Clan of the Cave Bear.

In May 2005, scientists in California succeeded in recovering and decoding the DNA of a cave bear that lived between 42,000 and 44,000 years ago. The procedure used mitochondrial DNA extracted from the animal's tooth, made use of powerful new computing technology developed for the human genome project. Sequencing the DNA directly (rather than first replicating it with the polymerase chain reaction), the scientists were able to recover 21 cave bear genes.

See also

de:Höhlenbär he:דוב המערות nl:Holenbeer pl:Niedźwiedź jaskiniowy pt:Urso das cavernas sv:Grottbjörn

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