Ice Age Mammal Bones of Northwest Alaska (#2)
October 21, 2013
"Ice Age Mammal Bones of northwest Alaska" is a new series of blog posts written by NPS archaeologist Jon Hardes. Each post will highlight bones that have been found in the region, often by local residents. If you have found an interesting bone, stop in to share it with Jon at our office in Kotzebue's Northwest Arctic Heritage Center.
See also: Prehistoric Horse (Equus sp.) maxilla
Short-faced bear mandible (lower jaw) discovered recently near Selawik, Alaska. For a specimen that is likely well over 11,000 years old, it is in pristine condition! Note: The arrows point to identifying features on the bone that help us to determine the jaw belonged to a prehistoric bear.
Artist's depiction of short-faced bear with silhouette of 6 ft. (~2m) tall man for scale.
A very brief history of the short-faced bear:
Though not a lot is known about the origins of the short-faced bear, it is known to have occupied North America from around 800,000 years ago until approximately 11,000 years ago. It was a common bear in its time and was the largest mammalian, terrestrial carnivore in North America. Their bones have been found from Alaska to Florida. Analysis of nitrogen-15 levels in their bones suggests they were highly carnivorous and required ~35 lbs. of food per day to support their long-legged, nearly one ton bodies.
The short-faced bear lived alongside its cousins; the brown bear, black bear and polar bear.
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Did You Know?
Even though Kobuk Valley National Park gets only 50 cm of rain and snow each year, much of the lowland tundra is soggy. Permafrost, many feet below the surface of the soil, prevents the water from draining away.