The Pleistocene epoch, a period famed for terrifying creatures like cave lions, dire wolves and saber-toothed cats and other weird animals during the last ice age has a very different creature: vegetarian cave bears.
Yes, you read that right. There was once a huge bear known as Ursus spelaeus, which roamed Europe and snacked on fruits and nuts instead of meat!
Except for the cuddly panda, we don’t see bears as not having humans on their menu. But researchers long believed that cave bears also ate some plants because they had the dentition for it. Their teeth were suited for grinding plants and not slashing meat.
Checking out the dentition of the cave bear, researchers from Germany and Spain found out that the direct ancestor of the cave bear – the Deninger’s bear “had very similarly shaped mandibles and skull to the classic cave bear,” said the lead author of the study, Anneke van Heteren.
Over 500 Thousand Years Ago, Cave Bears Had a Different Diet
The Deninger’s bear adapted long ago to a new diet explained the co-author of the study, Mikel Arlegi:
“There is an ongoing discussion on the extent to which the classic cave bear was a vegetarian. And, this is especially why the new information on the diet of its direct ancestor is so important, because it teaches us that a differentiation between the diet of cave bears and brown bears was already established by 500 thousand years ago and likely earlier.”
However, even if this bear didn’t enjoy munching on meat, this doesn’t mean that you could freely enter his cave! They might have preferred fruits or nuts, but they could also defend their territory – his huge frame would be terrifying enough! Nonetheless, it’s good to know that the Pleistocene epoch had a gigantic vegetarian among so many giant predators.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.