By Tara Rippin • 19 September 2020 • 13:09
The intact and fully preserved remains of a prehistoric cave bear have been found in the Siberian region of Yakutia, raising hopes of obtaining its DNA.
ACCORDING to scientists from the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU), this is the first grown up cave bear ever found – even its nose is intact.
The cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) is a prehistoric species or subspecies that lived in Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene period and became extinct about 15,000 years ago.
Preliminary analysis suggests the bear to be between 22,000 and 39,500 years old.
The new finds are of ‘world importance’, according to one of Russia’s leading experts on extinct Ice Age species.
Scientist Lena Grigorieva said of the discovery: ‘This is the first and only find of its kind – a whole bear carcass with soft tissues. It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place including even its nose.
“Previously, only skulls and bones were found. This find is of great importance for the whole world.”
The remains were found by reindeer herders on the island and will be analysed by scientists at NEFU in Yakutsk, which is at the forefront of research into extinct woolly mammoths and rhinos.
Russian and foreign colleagues will be invited to join the study.
“It is necessary to carry out radiocarbon analysis to determine the precise age of the bear,” said senior researcher, Maxim Cheprasov, from the Mammoth Museum laboratory in Yakutsk.
A scientific programme for its comprehensive study will be prepared and all modern scientific research methods will be used – molecular genetic, cellular, microbiological and others.
“The research planned is on as large a scale as in the study of the famous Malolyakhovsky mammoth,” said Dr Grigorieva, leading researcher of the International Centre for Collective Use of Molecular Paleontology at the NEFU’s Institute of Applied Ecology of the North.
Unlike many of today’s bears, which are omnivorous, cave bears likely didn’t really eat meat but they must have eaten a lot, because they were huge — up to 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) tall when they reared up on their hind legs, according to Ars Technica.
And they could weigh up to 3,300 lbs. (1,500 kg), according to a 2018 study in the journal PLOS One. That’s way more than their closest living relatives, the brown bear and the polar bear.
After living in Eurasia since at least 300,000 years ago, cave bears mysteriously went extinct about 25,000 to 20,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum. It’s likely hunted the bears were hunted to extinction, a 2019 study in the journal Scientific Reports found.
Recent years have seen major discoveries of mammoths, woolly rhinos, Ice Age foal, several puppies and Cave Lion cubs as the permafrost melts in Siberia.
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Tara Rippin is a reporter for Spain’s largest English-speaking newspaper, Euro Weekly News, and is responsible for the Costa Blanca region.
She has been in journalism for more than 20 years, having worked for local newspapers in the Midlands, UK, before relocating to Spain in 1990.
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