Predormancy omnivory in European cave bears evidenced by a dental microwear analysis of Ursus spelaeus from Goyet, Belgium


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September 2009


Previous morphological and isotopic studies indicate that Late Pleistocene cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) diet ranged from mostly vegetarian to omnivory or even carnivory. However, such analyses do not provide information on seasonal diets, and only provide an average record of diet. A dental microwear analysis of 43 young and adult individuals demonstrate that, during the predormancy period, cave bears from Goyet (Late Pleistocene, Belgium) were not strictly herbivorous, but had a mixed diet composed of hard items (e.g., possibly bone), invertebrates (e.g., insects), meat (ungulates, small vertebrates), and/or plant matter (hard mast, seeds, herbaceous vegetations, and fruits). Therefore, our results indicate that cave bears at Goyet were generalist omnivores during the predormancy period, which is consistent with current data on the dietary ecology of extant bears during this season. These data also raise questions about the ecological role and causes of the extinction of cave bears.


Dormancy, Pleistocene, Carnivora, Ursidae, Ecology

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PNAS, Vol. 106, no. 36 (2009-09-08).