The discovery of some rare fossilized remains in Canada’s Arctic has allowed experts to piece together an evolutionary tree for the descendant of North American bears.
A report published in the journal Scientific Reports says the 3.5-million-year-old skeletons reveal a bear that hibernates for a long period of time with a diet so full of berries that it had cavities.
Xiaoming Wang, a specialist in fossilized carnivores at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, says the discovery shows the animal is likely fattening up for winter and it’s the first such evidence that bears hibernated.
The bear, named Protarcos abstrusus, was smaller than the average black bear and had a flattened forehead.
Before the discovery on Ellesmere Island only pieces of the same bear species had been found in Idaho and China, so experts believed it was related to the black bear, but Wang says it’s now believed to be the grandfather of most bear species.
The remains were found in the so-called Beaver Pond fossil site in the high Arctic, an area experts say has evidence of Eurasian and North American plant and animal life deposited before the Bering Land Bridge disappeared thousands of years ago.
The Canadian Press