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Van Heteren, Anneke H. and Figueirido, Borja (2019): Diet reconstruction in cave bears from craniodental morphology: past evidences, new results and future directions. In: Historical Biology, Vol. 31, No. 4: pp. 500-509

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The diet of the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) is a controversial topic, as different paleobiological approaches (e.g. dental wear, isotopic biochemistry, skull morphometrics) result in different dietary inferences for the cave bear, ranging from carnivory to pure herbivory. Here, we review the main results obtained from these approaches, with special emphasis on those obtained from the morphometric analyses of the cave bear craniodental skeleton. Then, we compute a between-group Principal Components Analysis from a set of 3D-landmarks digitized on 103 mandibles of living bears and extinct cave bears and using a phylomorphospace approach. Moreover, we also reconstructed the evolutionary trajectory of the cave bear mandible from the hypothetical shape of its inferred ancestor. Our results indicate that the mandible of the cave bear possess specific traits indicative of a highly-herbivorous diet or, at least, more herbivorous than their closest living relative, the brown bear (Ursus arctos). Moreover, we also propose new directions for future research to obtain more detailed inferences on the potential food resources consumed by the cave bear being crucial to understand the 'life and death' of this vanished animal.

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