Ursid Fossils: Bears | Darwin and Wallace: A Nature & Fossil Store

Ursid Fossils: Bears


            Ursids (meaning “Bears” in Latin), are a family of mammals within the order Carnivora. Their closest living relatives are the canids (dogs and kin), pinnipeds (seals and kin), and the musteloids (raccoons, weasels, skunks, and kin). The earliest known bear is a small genus known as Parictis from North America during the Eocene epoch of approximately 38 million years ago. Despite being part of the Carnivoran order of mammals, bears are mostly omnivorous, with the exceptions being the almost entirely carnivorous Polar Bear, and the almost entirely herbivorous Great Panda. Despite being mostly omnivorous, bears generally fulfill the niche of apex predator in their habitats. Bears collectively possess an excellent sense of smell, large bodies, non-retractable claws, and some species also have the ability to go into hibernation (though based on technicalities, this is somewhat debated amongst experts). Today, bears are only known by 8 living species, all of which live in North America, Europe, and Asia, with the Spectacled Bear being the only known species from South America. Africa’s only known modern bear, the Atlas Bear, was hunted to extinction in the late 19th century.

Click on the images below to see the incredible fossils we offer in our Ursid selection: