Isotopic evidence for omnivory among European cave bears: Late Pleistocene Ursus spelaeus from the Peştera cu Oase, Romania
Previous bone collagen carbon and nitrogen isotopic studies of Late Pleistocene European cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) have shown that these bears frequently had low nitrogen isotope values, similar to those of herbivores and indicating either unusual physiology related to hibernation or a herbivorous diet. Isotopic analysis of animal bone from the Peştera cu Oase (Cave with Bones), Romania, shows that most of its cave bears had higher nitrogen isotope values than the associated herbivores and were, therefore, omnivorous. The Oase bears are securely identified as cave bears by both their morphology and DNA sequences. Although many cave bear populations may have behaved like herbivores, the Oase isotopic data demonstrate that cave bears were capable of altering their diets to become omnivores or even carnivores. These data therefore broaden the dietary profile of U. spelaeus and raise questions about the nature of the carnivore guild in Pleistocene Europe.