Bears are mammals of the family Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although only eight species of bears are extant, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere. Bears are found on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The earliest members of Ursidae belong to the extinct subfamily Amphicynodontinae, including Parictis (late Eocene to early middle Miocene, 38-18 Mya) and the slightly younger Allocyon (early Oligocene, 34-30 Mya), both from North America. These animals looked very different from today's bears, being small and raccoon-like in overall appearance, and diets perhaps more similar to that of a badger. Read more ...
22,000-year-old panda from cave in Southern China belongs to distinct, long-lost lineage Science Daily - June 18, 2018
Researchers who've analyzed ancient mitochondrial (mt)DNA isolated from a 22,000-year-old panda found in Cizhutuo Cave in the Guangxi Province of China -- a place where no pandas live today -- have revealed a new lineage of giant panda. The report, published in Current Biology on June 18, shows that the ancient panda separated from present-day pandas 144,000 to 227,000 years ago, suggesting that it belonged to a distinct group not found today.
The primitive bear with a sweet tooth: Scientists discover the 3.5 million-year-old remains of an ancient creature with severe cavities in Canada Daily Mail - December 18, 2017
Paddington's prehistoric ancestor, a primitive bear with a sweet tooth, has been discovered in the Arctic. Researchers identified the remains of a 3.5-million-year-old bear from a fossil-rich site in Canada's High Arctic. The findings show that the animal is a close relative of the ancestor of modern bears, and that it also had a taste for sweet treats - shown by cavities in its teeth. They say the ancient bear may have got his bad teeth from munching on berries, rather than Paddington's preferred sweet treat of marmalade sandwiches.
True causes for extinction of cave bear revealed PhysOrg - August 24, 2010
The cave bear started to become extinct in Europe 24,000 years ago, but until now the cause was unknown. An international team of scientists has analysed mitochondrial DNA sequences from 17 new fossil samples, and compared these with the modern brown bear. The results show that the decline of the cave bear started 50,000 years ago, and was caused more by human expansion than by climate change.
Ancient polar bear jawbone found BBC - December 10, 2007
What may be the oldest known remains of a polar bear have been uncovered on the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic. The jawbone was pulled from sediments that suggest the specimen is perhaps 110,000 or 130,000 years old. Tests show it was an adult, possibly a female. The find is a surprise because polar bears are a relatively new species, with one study claiming they evolved less than 100,000 years ago. If the Svalbard jawbone's status is confirmed, and further discoveries can show the iconic Arctic beasts have a deeper evolutionary heritage, then the outlook for the animals may be more positive than some believe.
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