Journal of Cave and Karst Studies - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 65 Number 2: 101-110 - August 2003

A publication of the National Speleological Society

A partial short-faced bear skeleton from an Ozark cave with comments on the paleobiology of the species
Blaine W. Schubert and James E. Kaufmann


Portions of an extinct giant short-faced bear, Arctodus simus, were recovered from a remote area within an Ozark cave, herein named Big Bear Cave. The partially articulated skeleton was found in banded silt and clay sediments near a small entrenched stream. The sediment covered and preserved skeletal elements of low vertical relief (e.g., feet) in articulation. Examination of a thin layer of manganese and clay under and adjacent to some skeletal remains revealed fossilized hair. The manganese in this layer is considered to be a by-product of microorganisms feeding on the bear carcass. Although the skeleton was incomplete, the recovered material represents one of the more complete skeletons for this species. The stage of epiphyseal fusion in the skeleton indicates an osteologically immature individual. The specimen is considered to be a female because measurements of teeth and fused postcranial elements lie at the small end of the size range for A. simus. Like all other bears, the giant short-faced bear is sexually dimorphic. A review of A. simus records revealed that only small individuals have been recovered from cave deposits. This association of small A. simus specimens with caves suggests that females used these subterranean shelters for denning.

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