Extinct Cave Bear DNA Found in Living Bears
The discovery is the first of its kind outside the human lineage.
After roaming Europe and Asia for more than a hundred thousand years, cave bears died out some 24,000 years ago, after a millennia-long death spiral possibly spurred by hunting, natural climate change, and competition with humans for habitat.
No cave bear has awoken from this final hibernation, but the animals' DNA lives on: A new study confirms that about 0.9 to 2.4 percent of living brown bears' DNA traces back to the extinct species.
The finding, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution on Monday, marks just the second time that researchers have found an extinct ice-age creature's genes within in a living relative. Humans are the first known example: Between 1.5 and four percent of the non-African human