CORUNA, Spain, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The cave bear went extinct in Europe 24,000 years ago, and European scientists say fossil DNA shows it was caused more by human expansion than climate change.
Scientists compared DNA from cave bear fossils with that of modern brown bears and found the decline of the cave bear began about 50,000 years ago, much earlier than formerly thought, a Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology release said Tuesday.
"The decline in the genetic diversity of the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) began around 50,000 years ago, much earlier than previously suggested, at a time when no major climate change was taking place, but which does coincide with the start of human expansion," Aurora Grandal-D'Anglade, a researcher at the University Institute of Geology of the University of Coruna, said.
Fossil remains shows the cave bear ceased to be abundant in Central Europe about 35,000 years ago, she said.
"This can be attributed to increasing human expansion and the resulting competition between humans and bears for land and shelter," Grandal-D'Anglade said.
The modern brown bear did not suffer the same fate and has survived for one simple reason, she said: Brown bears do not depend so heavily on cave habitat, which became degraded.
"Brown bears rely on less specific shelters for hibernation. In fact, their fossil remains are not very numerous in cave deposits," Grandal-D'Anglade said.