Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient Cave Bears Were As Omnivorous As Modern Bears

Date:
January 9, 2008
Source:
Washington University in St. Louis
Summary:
Rather than being gentle giants, new research reveals that Pleistocene cave bears ate both plants and animals and competed for food with the other contemporary large carnivores of the time: hyaenas, lions, wolves, and our own human ancestors.

Female cave bear skull from the Pestera cu Oase. Studies of the bones and teeth of cave bears, and especially the nitrogen isotopes in their bone protein, have concluded that they were largely vegetarian.
Credit: Academia Romana / Erik Trinkaus

Rather than being gentle giants, new research reveals that Pleistocene cave bears ate both plants and animals and competed for food with the other contemporary large carnivores of the time: hyaenas, lions, wolves, and our own human ancestors.

Cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) have long fascinated paleontologists and anthropologists, given the abundance of their large skeletal remains in Pleistocene hibernation caves across western Eurasia. For the past 30 years, studies of their bones and teeth, and especially the nitrogen isotopes in their bone protein, have concluded that they were largely vegetarian.

The interpretation of them as vegetarian has evoked an image of gentle giants, feeding on berries and roots. However, new nitrogen isotope data from the Pe_tera cu Oase in southwestern Romania shows otherwise.

Although many of these cave bears appear to have been largely vegetarian, the Oase bears and scattered individuals from other cave sites show that they were sometimes as omnivorous as modern brown bears, including North American Kodiak and grizzly bears.

The study was conducted by an international group of researchers including Michael Richards of the Max Planck Institute and Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis.

Journal reference: Richards, M.P., Pacher, M., Stiller, M., Quilès, J., Hofreiter, M., Constantin, S., Zilhão, J., Trinkaus, E. (2008) Isotopic evidence for omnivory among European cave bears: Late Pleistocene Ursus spelaeus from the Pe_tera cu Oase, Romania. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, online January 7,  (in press).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Washington University in St. Louis. "Ancient Cave Bears Were As Omnivorous As Modern Bears." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107181603.htm>.
Washington University in St. Louis. (2008, January 9). Ancient Cave Bears Were As Omnivorous As Modern Bears. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107181603.htm
Washington University in St. Louis. "Ancient Cave Bears Were As Omnivorous As Modern Bears." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107181603.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Attacking Superbugs

Attacking Superbugs

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) — Two weapons hospitals can use to attack superbugs. Scientists in Ireland created a new gel resistant to superbugs, and a robot that can disinfect a room in minutes. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Annual Dog Surfing Competition Draws California Crowds

Annual Dog Surfing Competition Draws California Crowds

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) — The best canine surfers gathered for Huntington Beach's annual dog surfing competition, "Surf City, Surf Dog." Duration: 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins