Washington, Dec 9 (ANI): New analyses have suggested that climate change was responsible for the extinction of the cave bears, 27,800 years ago.
Weighing up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds), cave bears lumbered in and out of caves throughout Europe for tens of thousand years.
Then, for unknown reasons, they disappeared.
Scientists have long thought that the cave bears went extinct about 15,000 years ago. New analyses, however, suggest that these legendary animals actually vanished 13,000 years before that, and climate change was probably responsible.
According to a report in Discovery News, the new findings by Martina Pacher, a paleontologist at the University of Vienna, and colleagues, suggest that cave bears were one of the first in a series of large animals to disappear from Europe, including woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and giant deer.
Around the same time, Earth's climate took a turn for the colder, as the globe plunged into a period called the Last Glacial Maximum.
"We used valid dates to show a completely different picture than what was previously believed," Pacher said. "Cave bears became extinct much earlier than we thought," she added.
Over the years, scientists have collected lots of cave bear bones from across Europe, from northwest Spain to Russia's Ural Mountains, from Belgium to Greece.
Based on the large amount of fossil evidence available, scientists now know a lot about what cave bears looked like and how they lived.
But the scattered and incomplete nature of previous research has left a lot of holes in our fundamental understanding of these animals, according to Aurora Grandal D'Anglade, a cave bear researcher at the University of Coruna in Spain.
In search of answers, Pacher and Anthony J. Stuart, of the London Natural History Museum, compiled all recorded radiocarbon dates measured on cave bear fossils since 1971.
The researchers included only dates from remains that were confirmed as cave bear bones. They included only dates that were acquired with recent and reliable methods.
The new, more accurate set of data strongly suggested that cave bears disappeared about 27,800 years ago from the Alps and adjacent areas, the only region with solid data available.
That's 13 millennia earlier than long-held estimates. (ANI)