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Prehistoric Cave Bears Were…Vegans?

Cave Bears
National Post

A recent study on prehistoric cave bears suggests that the bears were entirely herbivorous, which may have contributed to their demise.

Massive cave bears, those monstrous behemoths that are always pictured towering over and terrorizing cavemen, may have been…vegan? This is the startling conclusion of a recent study published in the Journal of Quaternary Science.

Scientists from four countries examined the content of bone collagen found in bears near Goyet, Belgium. They determined that the bears ate an entirely herbivorous diet from examining the amino acids found in the collagen.

Standing five-and-a-half feet at the shoulders and more than twelve feet in length, it is a rather shocking discovery that the canine-equipped bears ate nothing but plants.

“As a large bear approaching grizzly bear size and bigger, it’s a little surprising that they’re coming out entirely herbivorous,” said Dr. Keith Hobson, a University of Western Ontario professor and co-author of the study.

“We looked at the collagen before,” Hobson said, “and that indicated they were herbivorous. But people said it could’ve been environmental factors that we couldn’t control for. The amino acids corrected for those possibilities.”

The scientists speculate that their inflexible diet may be a reason why the giant bears went extinct some 25,000 years ago.

“They were more specialized,” Hobson said. “They were unable to adapt to circumstances as their habitat changed around them.”

But then, so too do panda bears live almost entirely on a diet of bamboo leaves.

Being herbivores, the study also suggests that the bears may have been slow moving. Too slow, perhaps, to avoid being hunted by humans.

“One of the ramifications of this is that they may have been big and slow, suggested Hobson. “As herbivores, they weren’t inclined to move fast or go after prey.”

This is something of a breakthrough in prehistoric study, since it provides for the first time, a distortion-free picture of the diet of a prehistoric creature.

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NEXT: The Biggest Collection of Kodiak Bears Ever Hunted

Prehistoric Cave Bears Were…Vegans?