Based on the analysis of fossil teeth conducted by researcher Alejandro Romero, from the University of Alicante's Departament of Biotechnology, a study shows that short-faced bears (Arctodus simus), the largest carnivores in the Ice Age, became omnivores to survive. The study, led by the University of Málaga (UMA) researcher Borja Figueirido, was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The scientific community previously thought that this extinct animal from North America was exclusively carnivorous, but, as pointed out by Mr Figueirido, “we dethroned the largest hypercarnivorous mammal ever to roam the Earth”. He adds: “Our results also suggest that the Arctodus simus population in southern North America was more omnivorous than the highly carnivorous populations in the north-east”.
Specifically, after the analysis involving microscopic techniques and virtual models developed by the UA researcher, carious lesions caused by carbohydrates, present in plants, were found in the dental remains discovered at the La Brea Tar Pits site in Los Angeles, California, described by Alejandro Romero as “one of the most paradigmatic sites to study fossil mammals from the Pleistocene in North America”.
The UA researcher also highlights that “this is an interesting study, as caries were found for the first time in the dental remains of Arctodus simus, which proves that they could adapt to plants present in their diet as a result of climate change or competition with other predators”.
Other participants in the study included vertebrate ecology and palaentology experts like Alejandro Pérez-Ramos, from the UMA, and researchers from the Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits Museum of Los Angeles, USA.