One of the most representative animals from prehistory is the cave bear. It could double the size and height of today’s brown bears: it reached a length of 3.5 meters. They fought hominids for the best caves, and now something new is known about their behavior: cave bears were cannibals.
50,000 year old bones
The scientific article was published in the Quaternary Science Review. The Catalan Institute of Paleoecology, the Rovira i Virgili University, the Alcalá University and the Complutense University of Madrid participated. They examined the remains of the Cueva del Toll in the heart of Catalonia. It has one of the largest collections of bones of this type in the Iberian Peninsula as it was a place of hibernation. The remains date from more than 50,000 years.
The research team focused on a modification seen in many of the Ursid bones. It’s a bill called a peeling. It is attributed to humans and other primates such as chimpanzees. Usually the edges of the bones remain completely frayed. It usually occurs after pressing the chest carcasses, causing the ribs to break. It was believed that they were the work of groups of Neanderthals who lived in the area. A field study shows that the cave is self-sustaining.
Today’s brown bears were taken as an example. The researchers subjected the animals to an experiment. They left the entire corpse of a herbivore in the usual ways of the mammal. The pictures showed that the Ursids could also peel.
“They use their front legs as if they were hands. They push and bend the animals’ chest cages until some of the ribs are broken. This is what Ruth Blasco, a member of the National Center for Evolutionary Research, explains.
Wake up to eat
A revelation that suggests that its predecessors also used this technique. And it wouldn’t be surprising if they did it with other Ursids. “Field work shows that brown bears have an impact on carcasses, especially after hibernating. Perhaps when the cave bears awoke from their lethargy they broke the ribs of other bears that had died in hibernation, ”says Blasco.
Neanderthals were also consumers of cave bear carcasses. “Small cuts on the inside of the ribs were also observed in the remains. These signs were made by hominids when they were processing the meat, “says Blasco.
The revelation that cave bears were cannibals illuminates their behavior in the Pleistocene. “We need to rethink what happened in the caves,” admits Blasco: What hominids were attributed to, bears might do.