Thursday, February 3, 2011

Biggest Bear Ever Found—"It Blew My Mind," Expert Says

Biggest Bear Ever Found—"It Blew My Mind," Expert Says

A prehistoric South American giant short-faced bear tipped the scales at up to 3,500 pounds (1,600 kilograms) and towered at least 11 feet (3.4 meters) standing up, according to a new study.

The previous heavyweight was a North American giant short-faced bear—a related extinct species—that weighed up to 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms). The largest bear on record in modern times was a 2,200-pound (998-kilogram) polar bear shot in Alaska in the 19th century.

The South American giant short-faced bear roamed its namesake continent about 500,000 to 2 million years ago and would have been the largest and most powerful meat-eater on land at the time, scientists say.

(Related: "Ancient Bear DNA Mapped—A First for Extinct Species.")

As carnivores go, "there's nothing else that even comes close" during the time period, said study co-author Blaine Schubert, a paleontologist at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee.

"It just blew my mind how big it was."

The bear skeleton, found in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, in 1935, was recently reexamined by Schubert and study co-author Leopoldo Soibelzon, a paleontologist from Argentina who specializes in South American fossil bears.

By measuring its almost elephant-size humerus, or upper arm bone, the team was able to calculate the size of the rest of the bear's body, Schubert said.

Their analysis also revealed that the animal was an old male that had endured several serious injuries throughout his life.

No comments: