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Name means: Bear Tooth 


Species: pristinus, simus

Range: Quaternary (Pleistocene-Holocene, 2 MYA to 10,000 YA) from North America

Size estimate: 6 ft high at shoulder (8-12 feet tall when standing), 1 ton

Discovery: Joseph Leidy, 1854

Classification: mammalia, carnivora, ursidae, tremarctinae


Also known as the Short-Faced Bear, Arctodus may have been the largest mammal carnivore ever to walk the North American continent. Its face may have looked shorter than the average bear’s, but its snout just grew thicker and rounder. Its legs also grew a little longer than other bears. Though long legs may have improved its speed, they mainly extended its endurance. Individual Short-Faced Bears’ ranges might have covered greater areas than modern grizzlies’ ranges.


Its closest living relative is the largely herbivorous Spectacled Bear of South America.  Though living relatives can help scientists deduce extinct animals' habits, Arctodus' lifestyle remains a mystery. Chemical analysis of its bones suggest its diet relied more on meat than its modern relatices. It may have actively hunted, but its heavy build makes a scavenging habit more likely. It might also have stolen kills from smaller carnivores like Smilodon or Dire Wolves. An opportunistic feeding habit could explain the need for a large territory that would improve its chances of finding food.


Fossil hunters found Arctodus bones at the Huntingdon Reservoir mammoth site in central Utah. The mammoth itself showed bite marks that match Arctodus teeth. This evidence doesn't tell us if the bear killed the Huntington mammoth, but it does show that Arctodus ate mammoth meat at least once in a while.

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