When you think of the name “bear ears”, you think “a beautiful and elegant pair of ears”.
But the ears don’t look like that, they’re just a tiny piece of a skull.
These are the ears of the brown bear, the same type of bear that was thought to have died out around 20,000 years ago, according to a new study.
The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, suggest that the brown bears, whose range extends from Canada to Siberia, are actually alive and kicking.
A study published in Nature earlier this year suggested that the animals are as old as 5 million years.
Brown bears are found in Eurasia, including Siberia, but they were thought to be extinct by the time of the Pleistocene epoch, which ended around 20 million years ago.
The study’s authors, led by Dr Michael Kranz, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Bristol in the UK, wanted to know if the browns had survived to the present day.
What they found is that they were still out there.
“It is quite possible that the species is alive today,” Kranze said.
But the researchers didn’t find any evidence of this at all in the fossil record.
“This study suggests that brown bears are alive in a relatively recent past, when there were no known populations in Eurasian Siberia,” he said.
The researchers analyzed the teeth of more than 100 brown bears from the Pleistsocene, which occurred roughly around 5,000 to 5,600 years ago in Siberia.
These teeth had been exposed to sedimentary rock and other debris in a cave, and they were also collected at sites in the Krasnoyarsk area of Russia.
The teeth had all been collected and analysed at the same time, the researchers said.
“The tooth remains from these bears are not all that different from those found in modern-day bears,” Dr Kranzer said.
And they’re not all brown, either.
Some were missing teeth, which indicates that the bear was in some way older.
Another fossil from this time, called the Late Pleistian fossil, also contained a number of teeth that are still missing.
And there were a few other surprises, too.
There were still two bears in the study who had not been included in previous studies.
“We didn’t expect to find the same pattern of teeth from two different species,” Kramz said.
Brown bear teeth are known to have been in use for thousands of years.
In fact, they have been used as tools in a variety of cultures.
“They have been a common tool for thousands and thousands of different cultures,” he explained.
“And they’re used in many different ways in humans today.”