Research is providing evidence trying to determine why Europe’s huge cave bears have gone extinct. A recent study shows that their large sinuses may have been the cause of their extinction since they could not adapt their nourishing habits to the cold snap.
Cave bears went extinct 24.000 years ago during the last glacial maximum. They were bears weighing up to 1000 kilograms and having a plant-based diet.
Scientists are stating that the death of these animals has been caused by the lack of food that the colder climate has brought. Other theories are showing that they were hunted by prehistoric humans, this massive killing making them extinct. However, the exciting part is why the closely related brown bears succeeded in surviving in the same environment.
At the University of Malaga, Alejandro Pérez-Ramos is the leading researcher of his team that took the initiative to perform CT scans on the skulls of the extinct bears, as well as eight other living species.
More Details On The Cave Bear Extinction
By analyzing the snaps, the researchers’ team has determined the most significant difference between the species: cave bears used to have larger sinuses, causing their ability to chew only using their back teeth.
Therefore, the brown bears had smaller sinuses, offering them more flexibility to chew both with their front and back teeth. That automatically implies that they had to possibility to eat plants and meat, depending on the food that was available during those times.
However, the larger sinuses of the cave bears had some advantages. One of the most important features was their ability to hibernate more during the emerging cold winters in the glacial period. Sinuses act like a reservoir of gases which used to activate their hibernation by reducing the heart beatings and the temperature of the body.
What is even more impressive is how the cave bears could have had enough body fat to hibernate for so much time if their diet was based on eating plants. The researcher concludes by saying that the bears are most likely to sleep while starving themselves to death.