Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Bear Museum, Ladin

Baby Cave Bear, Museum Ladin, San Cassiano, IT

This week Putin's Russian bear found her Crimean bear cub.  This mommy will not let her baby out of her sight for a very long time!
San Cassiano, IT
In the heart of the Italian Dolomites one can find the Museum Ladin -- a Bear Museum (www.museumladin.it!  It lies in the picturesque town of San Cassiano which is a paradise equally for winter sports and summer hiking.

In 1987 Willy Costamoling, an alpinist and local businessman, stumbled upon the Conturines cave while he was looking for fossils and minerals.  He had neglected to bring his flashlight.  On a second visit, equipped with illumination, he discovered the Hall of skulls.  He brought some pieces of skull back to a Viennese Professor of Paleontology who returned the following year to excavate.

Bear Skulls: Brown, Polar, Ladin (Ursus ladinicus), and Gamssulzen (Ursus ingressus) 
They had found a graveyard of giant Mountain cave bears who lived around 25 to 60 thousand years ago.  These bears were much larger than the Brown bears or even polar bears that we know today.  They have determined from the shape of their teeth that these were pure herbivores -- like today's Panda bears.

These Italian bears would, therefore, never have ordered pepperoni pizza.  "Solo con fungi per favore!"
Cave Bears Chilling
Temperature extremes were much greater in the time of the Cave bears.  During the summer these bears would seek refuge from the heat in high mountain cave (the Conturines cave entrance is at 2,750 meters above sea level) while during the winters these bears would hibernate.  During hibernation they could survive for months without food or water.

These bears could live up to 35 years -- almost twice the 20 year lifespan of today's brown bears.

No evidence of humans was found in this cave.  Not even a pizza delivery box.

Weighing in at 1200 kg versus 250 kg for today's European brown bear, these cave bears would have been much bigger than the ones featured in the bear-baiting street entertainments that Elizabeth I apparently preferred over Shakespeare's plays in the back alleys of London.

Ursus ladinicus skeleton, San Cassiano

These bears became extinct about 24,000 years ago, probably due to climate change.  Some will be disappointed that Man-made emissions do not seem to have played a role here!  A great glacial ice age probably proved too cold for them to survive.  There is no vegetation growing today at this altitude near the site of Conturines cave.

The Museum Ladin opened in 2011.  If you can't bear another run on the slopes go check it out!

Rumors that these magnificent creatures may have crossed an ancient land bridge and migrated to Berkeley, California are completely unfounded!


GO BEARS!!




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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

“Be cautious of bears at all times, even when being mauled by a tiger.”
― Craig Benzine

Anonymous said...

“Exit pursued by a bear."

-- Shakespeare [STAGE DIRECTIONS in The Winter's Tale (III, iii)]

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