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Thread: Evidence for Herbivorous Cave Bears (Ursus Spelaeus) in Goyet Cave, Belgium

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    Evidence for Herbivorous Cave Bears (Ursus Spelaeus) in Goyet Cave, Belgium

    European cave bears disappearing into a more versatile relative is what happened with neanderthals at the same time when the Mousterian gave way to UP industries.

    Insights into causes of extinction in fossil animals can contribute to an understanding of how environmental or anthropogenic processes may affect extant animals. Cave bears that went extinct in the late Pleistocene in Europe have been considered largely herbivorous based on tooth, skull and jaw morphology. Nitrogen and carbon isotopic composition (δ15N, δ13C) of bone collagen of many cave bears having values similar to or lower than those of coeval herbivores support an exclusive plant diet and their occurrence in habitats with denser vegetation. A complicating aspect of this hypothesis is that isotopic compositions of bulk collagen, especially those of nitrogen, could reflect environmental fluctuation as well as behavioural and physiological traits, which are not related to trophic position and so may lead to uncertainty in palaeodietary reconstruction. Here we show that δ15N analysis of individual collagen amino acids of fossil bears from Goyet Cave (Belgium) indicates that cave bears had a constant trophic position of 1.9–2.1, indicating purely herbivorous diets, while brown bears had a trophic position of 2.0–2.4, indicating a slightly more omnivorous diet. Results might support the hypothesis of the extinction of cave bear due to the inflexibility in feeding habits.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1....2883/abstract

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    Strictly herbivorous bears? I probably shouldn't find this mind-blowing, as I'd already heard of hoofed carnivores distantly related to horses and supposedly resembling "hoofed lions"... I only wish I could remember the scientific name for such.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leto Atreides II View Post
    Strictly herbivorous bears? I probably shouldn't find this mind-blowing, as I'd already heard of hoofed carnivores distantly related to horses and supposedly resembling "hoofed lions"... I only wish I could remember the scientific name for such.
    Do you mean mesonychids? Which turn out as sister branch to true Carnivora now. But this is a true bear, like giant pandas. Cave bears didn't really go extinct so much as disappear via introgression into brown bears - same as neanderthals were assimilated into our ancestry at that time.

    Probably cave bears ate some meat and fish but less than brown bears. Same with the neanderthals: outcompeted by an interfertile species using a wider range of foods. Mousterian toolkits even lack harpoons for fishing - salmonids and eels can be important seasonal foods in cold climates. Fishing tools however appear only in the Upper Paleolithic with our mainline ancestors.

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    I cannot find anything which says cave bears were reabsorbed into the main stream evolution of brown bears. We have touched on this before. I am interested in bears. Can you provide a reference. This is all I get from Wikepedia. We know polar and brown bears are closely related and can interbreed but cave bears are more distantly related to brown bears.



    Recovery of fossil DNA[edit]

    In May 2005, scientists in California recovered and sequenced the nuclear DNA of a cave bear that lived between 42,000 and 44,000 years ago. The procedure used genomic DNA extracted from one of the animal's teeth. Sequencing the DNA directly (rather than first replicating it with the polymerase chain reaction), the scientists recovered 21 cave bear genes from remains that did not yield significant amounts of DNA with traditional techniques.[31] This study confirmed and built on results from a previous study using mitochondrial DNA extracted from cave bear remains ranging from 20,000 to 130,000 years old.[8] Both show that the cave bear was closer related to the brown bear and polar bear rather than the American black bear, but had split from the brown bear lineage before the distinct eastern and western brown bear lineages diversified and before the split of brown bears and polar bears. The divergence date estimate of cave bears and brown bears is about 1.2–1.4 Mya.[8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow View Post
    I cannot find anything which says cave bears were reabsorbed into the main stream evolution of brown bears. We have touched on this before. I am interested in bears. Can you provide a reference. This is all I get from Wikepedia. We know polar and brown bears are closely related and can interbreed but cave bears are more distantly related to brown bears.
    The information was in an old John Hawks blog entry. His point was this was common in Pleistocene Eurasia.

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    I checked, looking for a search function but found none. John Hawks needs some sort of search on his blog.

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    Could anyone tell the cave bears were more herbivorous than brown bears by looking at their remains? With giant pandas you can.

    The long coexistence of UP Homo sapiens with the other megafauna in Europe refutes the idea White ancestors caused their extinctions, of course. Were cave bears were hit bad by early UP people or something? Dietary competition with modern humans greater than with neanderthals?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catterick View Post
    Do you mean mesonychids?
    I looked those up and yes, that seems about right. Though their extremities are not as hoof-like as I'd imagined.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leto Atreides II View Post
    I looked those up and yes, that seems about right. Though their extremities are not as hoof-like as I'd imagined.
    They are the sister group to Carnivora, not Ungulsta. What did you expect?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catterick View Post
    They are the sister group to Carnivora, not Ungulsta. What did you expect?
    Wikipedia still lists them as Ungulates... does the article need to be updated?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesonychid

    Mesonychia ("middle claws") is an extinct taxon of small- to large-sized carnivorous digitigrade ungulates related to the cetartiodactyls.

    *****

    The mesonychids bore a strong, albeit superficial, resemblance to wolves. Early mesonychids had five digits on their feet, which probably rested flat on the ground during walking (plantigrade locomotion), but later mesonychids had four digits that ended in tiny hooves on all of their toes and were increasingly well adapted to running. Like running members of the even-toed ungulates, mesonychids (Pachyaena, for example) walked on their digits (digitigrade locomotion).[2]

    These "wolves on hooves" were probably one of the more important predator groups (although they may have been scavengers) in the late Paleocene and Eocene ecosystems of Europe (which was an archipelago at the time), Asia (which was an island continent), and North America. Mesonychid dentition consisted of molars modified to generate vertical shear, thin blade-like lower molars, and carnassial notches, but no true carnassials. The molars were laterally compressed and often blunt, and were probably used for shearing meat or crushing bones. Many species are suspected of being fish-eaters, and the largest species are considered to have been scavengers.

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