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Bear
Kodiak Brown Bear
Kodiak Brown Bear
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
G. Fischer de Waldheim, 1817
Genera
Ailuropoda
Ursus
Tremarctos
Arctodus(extinct)
A bear is a large mammal of the order Carnivora, family Ursidae. The adjective, ursine, is used to describe things of bearlike nature.

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Contents

Physical attributes
Habitats
Behavior
Other
Classification
Evolutionary relationships
Bears in mythology
Bears in popular culture



Physical attributes - Contents

Common characteristics of bears include a short tail, excellent senses of smell and hearing, five un-retractable claws, and long, dense, shaggy fur.Bears have a large body with powerful limbs. They are capable of standing up on their hind legs. They have broad paws, long snouts, and round ears. Their teeth are used for defense and tools and depend on the diet of the bear. Their claws are used for ripping, digging, and catching. A bear's eyesight is probably similar in acuity (sharpness) to the human eye. Black bears, and likely other bears, have colour vision to help them identify fruits and nuts.Depending on the species, bears can have 32 to 42 teeth. Bear teeth are not specialized for killing their prey like those of cats. Normal canine teeth in a carnivore are generally large and pointed used for killing prey, while bears' canine teeth are relatively small and typically used in defense or as tools. Bears' molar teeth are broad, flat and are used to shred and grind plant food into small digestable pieces.Bears have four limbs that end in paws. Each paw has five long, sharp claws that are unretractible, unlike cats. These claws can be used to climb trees, rip open termite nests and beehives, dig up roots, or catch prey, depending on the species. While most carnivores tend to walk on their toes in a way that is adapted for speed, bears have a plantigrade stance. They walk with their weight on the soles of their hindfeet, with the heel touching the ground, while the toes of the forefeet are used more for balance. Although slower than most carnivores, a running bear can reach speeds of up to 50 km/h (30 mph). They are also stronger than most carnivores and their limbs are more flexible and agile.A bear's fur is long and shaggy. Fur colour varies among species, ranging from white, blonde or cream, to black, and white to all black or all brown. Colors of a bear's fur can also vary within species. For example, American black bears may be black, brown, reddish-brown, or bluish-black. Several species, such as the sun bear and spectacled bear have a light-colored chest with facial markings.In all bear species, males are larger than females, but the difference between sexes varies and is greatest in the largest species. Large male polar bears may weigh twice as much as females, while smaller male and female bears are much more similar in weight. A bear's life span seems to last about 25 to 40 years. Bears living in the wild tend to die younger than their zoo-counterparts.


Habitats - Contents

Bears live in a variety of habitats from the tropics to the Arctic and from forests to snowfields. They are mainly omnivorous, although some have a more specialised diet, such as polar bears. They eat lichens, roots, nuts, and berries. They can also go to a river or other body of water to capture fish. Bears will commonly travel far for food. Hunting times are usually in the dusk or the dawn except when humans are nearby.Some of the large species, such as the polar bear and the grizzly bear, are dangerous to humans, especially in areas where they have become used to people. For the most part, bears are shy and are easily frightened of humans. They will, however, defend their cubs ferociously.


Behavior - Contents

Bears mostly live alone, except for mothers and their cubs, or males and females during mating season. Bears form temporary groups only when food is plentiful in a small area. Alaskan brown bears group in the same area to feed on salmon during the annual salmon runs, when the fish swim upriver to reach their spawning grounds. Giant pandas may also form small social groups, based on recent evidence, perhaps because bamboo is more concentrated than the patchy food resources of other bear species. Other bears may live alone but exist in a social network. A male and female may live in an overlapping home range, each defending their range from other bears of the same sex. Male young usually leave their mothers to live in other areas, but females often live in an area that overlaps that of their mother.Bears travel over large territories in search of food, remembering the details of the landscape they cover. They use their excellent memories to return to locations where food was plentiful in past years or seasons. Most bears are able to climb trees to chase prey or gain access to additional vegetation. The only exceptions are polar bears and large adult brown bears, whose heavy weight makes it difficult to climb trees.

Reproductive behaviour
The bear's courtship period is very brief. Bears reproduce seasonally, usually after a period of inactivity similar to hibernation. Cubs come out toothless, blind, and bald. The cubs, usually born in litters of 1–3, will stay with the mother for six months. They will be fed by milk at first and will start hunting with the mother in three months. Then, they are weaned. However, they will still remain nearby for three years. The cubs reach sexual maturity at seven years. Normally, bears are very solitary and will not remain close together for long periods of time.


Other - Contents

Many bears of northern regions are assumed to hibernate in the winter. While many bear species do go into a physiological state called hibernation or winter sleep, it is not true hibernation. In true hibernators, body temperatures drop to near ambient and heart rate slows drastically, but they periodically rouse themselves to urinate or defecate and eat from stored food. The body temperature of bears, on the other hand, drops only a few degrees from normal and heart rate slows slightly. They do not wake normally during 'hibernation' therefore do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate the entire period. Higher body heat and being easily roused may be adaptations because female bears bear cubs during this winter sleep.Laws have been passed in many areas of the world to protect bears from hunters or habitat destruction. Bears in captivity used to be trained to dance, box, or unicycle, but it is now controversial to use animals in this way.The Brown Bear is Finland's national animal. Kodiak Bears are the largest type of bear (Polar Bears are the heaviest though), indeed one of the largest extant carnivores. Sun Bears are the smallest, only a bit smaller than the average person.


Classification - Contents

  • Family Ursidae
    • Subfamily Ailuropodinae
      • Giant Panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca
      • Dwarf Panda, Ailuropoda minor (extinct)
    • Subfamily Tremarctinae
      • Spectacled Bear, Tremarctos ornatus
      • Florida Cave Bear, Tremarctos floridanus (extinct)
      • Giant Short-Faced Bear, Arctodus simus (extinct)
      • Short-Faced Bear, Arctodus pristinus (extinct)
      • Brazilian Short-Faced Bear, Arctotherium brasilense (extinct)
      • Argentine Short-Faced Bear, Arctotherium latidens (extinct)
    • Subfamily Ursinae
      • Brown Bear, Ursus arctos
        • Subspecies Syrian (Brown) Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus)
        • Subspecies Grizzly Bear, (Ursus arctos horribilis)
        • Subspecies Kodiak Bear, (Ursus arctos middendorffi)
      • American Black Bear, Ursus americanus
      • Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus
      • Asiatic Black Bear, Ursus thibetanus
        • Ursus thibetanus formosanus
        • Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus
        • Ursus thibetanus japonica
        • Ursus thibetanus laniger
        • Ursus thibetanus mupinensis
        • Ursus thibetanus thibetanus
        • Ursus thibetanus ussuricu
      • Auvergne Bear, Ursus minimus (extinct)
      • Etruscan Bear, Ursus etruscus (extinct)
      • European Cave Bear, Ursus spelaeus (extinct)
      • Atlas Bear, Ursus crowtheri (extinct)
      • Sloth Bear, Melursus (Ursus) ursinus
        • Subspecies Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (Melursus (Ursus) ursinus inornatus)
        • Subspecies Indian Sloth Bear (Melursus (Ursus) ursinus ursinus)
      • Sun Bear, Helarctos malayanus
        • Subspecies Borneo Sun Bear (Helarctos (Ursus) malayanus euryspilus)
The genera Melursus and Helarctos are included in the genus Ursus. The Asiatic Black Bear and the Polar Bear used to be placed in their own genera, Selenarctos and Thalarctos.A number of hybrids have been bred between American Black, Brown and Polar Bears (see Ursinae hybrids).


Evolutionary relationships - Contents

Bears are members of the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia, and family Ursidae. Other members of the Caniformia include wolves and other dog-like mammals (family Canidae), weasels, skunks, and badgers (family Mustelidae), raccoons (family Procyonidae), and walruses (family Odobenidae), seals (family Phocidae), and sea lions (family Otariidae). Although bears are often described as having evolved from a dog-like ancestor, their closest living relatives are the pinnipeds (walruses, seals, and sea lions).The origins of the bears can be traced back to the raccoon-sized, dog-like Cephalogale from the middle Oligocene and early Miocene (approximately 20-30 million years ago) of Europe. Cephalogale gave rise to a lineage of early bears, the genus Ursavus. This genus radiated in Asia and ultimately gave rise to the first true bears (genus Ursus) in Europe, 5 million years ago. Extinct bear genera include Arctodus, Agriarctos, Agriotherium, Plionarctos and Indarctos.Although there has previously been much discussion as to whether the Giant Panda belongs to the bear family or the raccoon family, recent DNA analyses have shown that the Giant Panda is a member of the Family Ursidae and as such is more closely related to other bears. The status of the Red Panda remains uncertain, but many experts, including Wilson and Reeder, classify it as a member of the bear family. Others place it with the racoons in Procyonidae or in its own family, the Ailuridae. The many similarities between the two pandas are thought to represent convergent evolution for feeding primarily on bamboo.There is also evidence that, unlike their neighbors elsewhere, the Brown Bears of Alaska's ABC Islands are more closely related to Polar Bears than they are to other Brown Bears in the world. Researchers Gerald Shields and Sandra Talbot of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology studied the DNA of several samples of the species and found that their DNA is different from that of other Brown Bears. The researchers discovered that their DNA was unique compared to Brown Bears anywhere else in the world. The discovery has shown that while all other Brown Bears share a Brown Bear as their closest relative, those of Alaska's ABC Islands differ and share their closest relation with the Polar Bear.


Bears in mythology - Contents

The saddled "bear of St Corbinian" the emblem of Freising, here incorporated in the arms of Pope Benedict XVI
The saddled "bear of St Corbinian" the emblem of Freising, here incorporated in the arms of Pope Benedict XVI
There is some evidence for prehistoric bear worship, see Arctic, Arcturus, Great Bear, Berserker, Kalevala. Anthropologists such as Joseph Campbell have regarded this as a common feature in most of the fishing and hunting-tribes. The prehistoric Finns, along with most finno-ugric peoples, considered the bear as the spirit of one's forefathers. This is why the bear was a greatly respected animal, with several euphemistic names. There has been evidence about early bear worship in China and among the Ainu culture as well.In addition, the Proto-Indo-European word for bear, *hr̥ktos (ancestral to the Greek arktos, Latin ursus, Welsh arth (c.f. Arthur), Sanskrit *ṛkṣa, Hittite hartagga) seems to have been subject to taboo deformation or replacement (as was the word for wolf, wlkwos), resulting in the use of numerous unrelated words with meanings like "brown one" (English bruin) and "honey-eater" (Slavic medved). Thus four separate Indo-European language groups do not share the same PIE root. In the Finnish countryside, the word for "bear" remains taboo to this day. The theory of the bear taboo is taught to almost all beginning students of Indo-European and historical linguistics; the putative original PIE word for bear is itself descriptive, because a cognate word in Sanskrit is rakshas, meaning "harm, injury" [1].Numerous cities around the world have adopted the bear as a symbol, notably the Swiss capital Bern, which takes its name from the German for bear, bär. The bear is also the name-emblem of Berlin. Bears are a common symbol of heraldry. In the arms of the bishopric of Freising (illustration, right) the bear is the dangerous totem animal tamed by Saint Corbinian and made to carry his civilized baggage over the mountains: the allegory of the civilizing influence of Christianity is inescapable. A bear also features prominently in the legend of Saint Romedius, who is also said to have tamed one of these animals and had the same bear carry him from his hermitage in the mountains to the city of Trento.


Bears in popular culture - Contents

Bears, usually anthropomorphized, appear frequently as characters in popular culture; see List of fictional bears.
  • Some bears have been famous in their own right, like the bear that U.S. president Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt refused to shoot in Mississippi. That bear became the prototype for the Teddy bear, which is a stuffed animal toy.
  • In the stock market, a bear market is a period of declining prices. Pessimistic forecasting or negative activity is said to be bearish (due to the stereotypical posture of bears looking downwards), and one who expresses bearish sentiment is a bear. Its opposite is a bull market, and bullish sentiment from bulls.
  • Many cultures regard bears as possessing healing powers. The peoples of China, Japan and Korea use bears' body parts and secretions (notably their gall bladders and bile) as part of traditional Chinese medicine. This has had a major impact on populations of bears around the world. Thousands of bears are farmed for their bile in China, Vietnam and Korea. They are kept in appalling conditions and usually have bile drained from their gall bladders using catheters inserted into their abdomen or with hypodermic needles. There is no evidence to suggest that farming bears has reduced pressures on wild bear populations. Indeed the farming of bears in China has led to a huge increase in consumption of bear bile since the 1980's with many people prepared to pay very high prices for the 'superior' bile of a wild bear.
  • The bear, the bruin, or specific types of bears are popular nicknames or mascots, e.g. for sports teams; and a bear cub was mascot of the 1980 Summer Olympics.
  • The constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor represent bears.
  • The bear is a common national symbol for Russia (and the Soviet Union), as used in the Ronald Reagan political ad " Bear in the woods."
  • In CB slang, "bear" (or "smokey", in reference to Smokey Bear) is a nickname for highway patrol.
  • In homosexual slang, the term "Bear" refers to male individuals who possess physical attributes much like a bear, such as a heavy build, abundant body hair, and commonly facial hair.
  • Microsoft Bear is an unofficial mascot hidden in Windows 3.1 and Windows 95.
  • Stephen Colbert frequently attacks bears as "godless killing machines" mobilized against humanity on The Colbert Report.
  • To try like a bear means to try your hardest to catch the attention of a certain lady. The harder you try, the better the bear you are.
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