Scientists have found fossilised remains of a giant bear that inhabited Argentina some 700,000 years ago, in an excavation located 170 kilometres north of the capital, the La Matanza National University's Scientific Dissemination Agency reported Tuesday.
"It is a large bear of the genus Arctotherium angustidens, who at their largest, standing up, could reach up to 4.5 metres in height," said paleontologist Leopoldo Soibelzon, researcher at the Museum of La Plata and the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET).
"It was possible to see the remains of this specimen that walked the Pampas region about 700,000 years ago, thanks to the actions of the excavator," explained José Luis Aguilar, director of the Museum of the town of San Pedro, the place of discovery.
He was identified as a young male who weighed about 800 kilos at the time of death and who would have measured approximately 2.5 meters standing upright.
Aguilar, who made this finding along with researchers Matías Swistun and Julio Simonini, said that the remains were located in an area where a sedimentary layer was detected along with the remains of an old swamp.
"Some of the big animals that hunted or that came to drink water were trapped in that mud, in that swamp," the scientist speculated.
He also highlighted "the impressive state of preservation of the skull along with its two mandibular branches, which have preserved all of the teeth" and in reference to the latter detailed that "it has fangs about six centimetres long, which are strong, compact, pointed and were prepared to tear the flesh of their prey.”
In addition to the skull, part of the pelvis, a fragment of the humerus, part of its radius and six articulated vertebrae were also found.
Several studies allowed them to identify certain fungi, algae and some vegetables in the sediment where the remains of the animal were found.
"This lets us know that this giant bear lived in a steppe environment made up of herbaceous plants, with a somewhat sandy soil and always with bodies of water nearby," Aguilar said.
For his part, Soibelzon said that "these bears lived in the Pampa region until about 500 thousand years ago."