A team of paleontologists coming from different countries have stumbled upon some interesting remnants of an ancient bear situated beyond the Arctic Circle in Canada. The remains dated back to the Pliocene period, so they were about 3.5 million years old, and indicated that the animal had a predilection for berries.
The High Arctic bear was the ancestor of almost all modern bears
Researchers called this prehistoric creature the High Arctic bear. It belonged to the species Protarctos abstrusus, and represents an ancestor for most bear species that exist today. It was smaller than the American black bear, but about as big as an Asian black bear. Its head was quite flat, and displayed interesting dental features.
This was the first evidence of a bear species living so far north. Also, it can finally offer a complete view of how the High Arctic bear must have looked like. At first, researchers found only a tooth fossil in Idaho, which belonged to this creature. Then, they finally managed to gather other body parts, and constructed a complete skeleton of the ancestor of all bears.
The High Arctic bear, as its name suggests, lived in an area covered in ice and snow, where there was winter for six months a year. Also, the night sometimes lasted for 24 hours. Modern bears live in more varied habitats, including both Arctic and tropical regions. Most of their ancestors originated from Eurasia, and this individual represents an instance of the first bear migrations from Asia to North America.
This was the first bear species to start eating berries
What was the most interesting about this High Arctic bear were its teeth. Both the old tooth found previously in Idaho and the one found in Northern Canada showed signs of cavities. This led researchers to the conclusion that they consumed plenty of sugars. Glucose or fructose can easily be broken down by the oral bacteria, which led to the destroying of teeth and the apparition of cavities.
Now, it’s not uncommon that bears enjoy eating berries to accumulate fat for the hibernation period. However, this is the earliest evidence of high-calorie consumption in bears, suggesting they started gathering their fat deposits quite early in their evolution.