According to an article that was published in the Journal of Paleontology earlier this month, the record for the world’s biggest bear was recently shattered by a male South American gigantic short-faced bear.
The bear, which lived in Argentina during the Pleistocene Ice Age, would have towered above the world’s biggest individual bear from an extant species if it had stood 11 feet tall and weighed around 3,500 pounds. The bear lived during the time period known as the Pleistocene. This honour goes to a male polar bear that clocked in at a whopping 2,200 pounds when it was measured.
The South American gigantic short-faced bear (Arctotherium angustidens), which lived between two and half a million years ago, profited from having a massive body size throughout its life.
According to the co-author of the study, Leopoldo Soibelzon, who was interviewed by Discovery News, “During its time, this bear was the biggest and most formidable land predator in the planet, therefore we assume it lived free of worry of being eaten.”
Following an examination of the bear’s fossilised bones, Soibelzon, a researcher in the Vertebrate Paleontology Division at the La Plata Museum, and Blaine Schubert, a colleague from East Tennessee State University, came to these conclusions. During the course of a building operation in La Plata City, the fossils were discovered. They were given to the museum in 1935, and the museum has been the permanent home of the bones ever since.
Prior to this study, the authors did a substantial amount of research looking at both extinct and contemporary bear species. According to the findings of the study, the size of seven specific bones was determined to be the most accurate predictor of the overall body size of bears. The measurements of the huge bear’s leg bones, together with calculations for determining body mass, were used by Soibelzon and Schubert in their calculation of the size of the gigantic bear.
The lack of other big carnivores in the bear’s environment is likely what allowed it to grow into such a massive species, according to the experts. The huge short-faced bear of South America was much larger than the saber-toothed cat that lived in Argentina at the time. Nevertheless, the saber-toothed cat was at the top of the food chain in Argentina at the time.
The area was also home to a wide range of large herbivores during that time period, giving the giant bear with a diverse selection of potential meals.
According to Soibelzon, “A. angustidens most likely had a diet that was omnivorous and comprised of a large diversity of different components, but the majority of which were animal remnants.” “Among such things, I imagine that the flesh and bones of huge animals played a significant role in its diet.”
In spite of having suffered severe wounds throughout the course of its life, the specific male bear who was the subject of the researchers’ study lived to a ripe old age. The fossilised skeletons continue to show evidence of the damage that they sustained.
The researchers are unable to say for definite what caused the physical injuries; nevertheless, Soibelzon said that “surely male-on-male combat would be a possibility.”
He continued by saying, “Other possibilities include hunting megafauna, such as enormous ground sloths,” and “disputes with other carnivores, such as a saber-toothed cat, over a corpse.”
According to Schubert, the bear was a member of a subspecies of bears known as the tremarctines, which only has one surviving representation today. This representative is the spectacled bear. The selection forces that have been exerted over the course of time have resulted in this current bear species being a rather tiny one. During the Pleistocene epoch, however, enormous bears roamed the landscapes of both North and South America. In addition, Europe was the home of an enormous cave bear.
According to Discovery News, Eduardo Tonni, the director of the Vertebrate Paleontology Division at the Museo de La Plata, is in agreement with the new discoveries. He said that the conclusions reached by the authors “are well backed by the fossil record and contemporary understanding.” According to Tonni, the two experts have spent the last 14 years investigating significant fossil collections pertaining to extinct creatures that formerly lived in Europe, North America, and South America.
Tonni continued by stating that the researchers “analysed and compared, for the first time, the evolutionary tendencies of ancient and extant bears.”