Tag Archives: Panda

Episode 220: Panda Mysteries, Solved!



This week let’s learn about a mystery panda and a few small panda mysteries!

Join our mailing list!

Further Reading:

Mystery of the brown giant panda deepens

The Qinling panda is not like other pandas:

The giant panda is subtly different from the Qinling panda. Can you spot the difference?

Show transcript:

Welcome to Strange Animals Podcast. I’m your host, Kate Shaw.

I usually like to shake things up from week to week, but April has turned into mammal month. We’ve got another interesting mammal this week, a panda that until recently was a mystery. But first! A quick correction from last week. Pranav emailed to let me know that I got infrasound and ultrasound mixed up. Tarsiers communicate and hear in ultrasound. Infrasound is below human hearing while ultrasound is above.

We’ve talked about the giant panda before in episodes 42 and 109. Pretty much everyone is familiar with the panda because it looks so cuddly. It’s a bear, but unlike every other bear it eats plants. Specifically, it eats bamboo, although it will also sometimes eat bird eggs and small animals. It’s mostly white but its ears are black, it has black patches around and just under its eyes, and its legs are black. It also has a strip of black around its body at about its shoulders.

But what if I told you there was another kind of panda that wasn’t black and white? I’m not talking about the red panda, which is not actually very closely related to bears. I’m talking about the Qinling panda.

Qinling refers to the Qinling Mountains in central China, which is where the pandas live. There aren’t many of them, although to be fair there aren’t many pandas in the wild at all. Estimates vary from around 200 to 300 Qinling pandas in the wild. They live in two big nature reserves, and there’s only one in captivity.

The reason you’ve probably never heard of the Qinling panda is because until 2005, no one realized it wasn’t a regular panda with slightly different color fur. In 2005 a genetic study determined that the Qinling panda has been isolated from other pandas for at least 12,000 years and is different enough that it’s considered a subspecies of panda.

The Qinling panda is sometimes called the brown panda or sepia panda, because instead of being black and white, it’s brown and brownish-white. Where an ordinary panda has white fur, the Qinling panda has light tan or light brown fur. Where an ordinary panda has black fur, the Qinling panda has brown fur. It’s not dark brownish-black, just a medium brown. It also has a smaller, rounder head than other pandas.

In 1989, before anyone realized the Qinling panda was a different subspecies, a female was captured as a mate for a captive giant panda. The pair had a baby who looked like an ordinary black and white panda cub, at least for the first four months of his life. At four months old his fur started to look more and more brown, until he was a brown and pale brown panda instead of a black and white panda. Unfortunately, the baby didn’t survive to grow up, and the mother panda died in 2000.

The Qinling panda lives in high elevations and eats bamboo, just like other pandas. Because there are so few of them, and because they’re hard to keep in captivity and hard to find in the wild, we still don’t know a whole lot about them. We do know that the Qinling panda tends to have more tooth problems than regular pandas, sometimes losing its teeth or just fracturing them. This may be due to inbreeding, but it may be genetic.

The Qinling panda’s genetic profile indicates that it has more traits in common with the ancestor it shares with giant pandas than the giant panda does. In the time that the populations have been separate, the giant panda has evolved more quickly than the Qinling panda. The giant panda’s teeth may be better adapted to its diet than the Qinling panda’s teeth are.

Now that I’ve told you that the Qinling panda has a different color coat than giant pandas, let me back that up a little. Not all Qinling pandas have brown fur. Most are black and white, although they may have a brown tinge to the coat. The brown pandas were first noticed in the 1960s and researchers worry that it’s a sign of inbreeding. Then again, the genetic studies done on Qinling pandas show a healthy amount of genetic diversity with little sign of inbreeding. The brown coloration might be due to other factors.

While we’re talking about panda coloration, why does the giant panda have such unusual markings? Even animals that are black and white aren’t patterned like the panda. I’m happy to report that the researcher who led the study that determined that zebras have black and white stripes to confuse biting flies, which we talked about in episode 149, seems to have solved the panda markings mystery too.

Because the panda’s diet is so low in calories and nutrition, it can never build up the kind of fat stores that other bears do. As a result, it doesn’t have fat reserves that would allow it to go dormant during the winter and sleep most of the time. The white fur helps hide it in snow during the winter. Adult giant pandas don’t have to worry too much about predators because they’re so big, up to a little more than six feet long, or 2 meters, but young pandas are vulnerable to snow leopards, eagles, black bears, and other predators. The black markings help break up the body’s pattern and help hide it in the bamboo forests where there’s lots of dappled shade.

But the giant panda’s black ears may actually help deter predators. Many animals signal aggression with their ears, and because the panda’s ears are large and black against its white-furred head, potential predators may perceive the panda as being aggressive.

All pandas have to travel sometimes long distances to find enough food to eat, and they need more than one species of bamboo. Some bamboo species contain more nutrients than others, while different species of bamboo sprout, flower, and die back at different times of the year. Female pandas will also sometimes wander widely to find a mate, although she will often return to her home territory to give birth.

Most animals are active at one of three sections of the day. Diurnal animals are mostly active during daytime, nocturnal animals are mostly active at night, and crepuscular animals are mostly active at dawn and dusk. The giant panda, however, including the Qinling panda, is mostly active in the morning, in the afternoon, and at midnight. We don’t even have a term for that pattern because it appears to be unique to the panda. But you know what? If that makes the panda happy, that’s fine. The panda can get up at midnight to snack on bamboo all it wants.

You can find Strange Animals Podcast at strangeanimalspodcast.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email us at strangeanimalspodcast@gmail.com. If you like the podcast and want to help us out, leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or just tell a friend. We also have a Patreon at patreon.com/strangeanimalspodcast if you’d like to support us that way. Oh, and we have a mailing list sign-up now too!

Thanks for listening!


Episode 109: Convergent Evolution



I mention convergent evolution occasionally, but what is it really? This week we learn about what it is and some animals that demonstrate it. Thanks to Richard E. and Llewelly for their suggestions this week! Jaguars and leopards look so similar I’m not 100% sure this picture actually shows one of each:

The adorable sucker-footed bat from Madagascar:

The equally adorable TOTALLY UNRELATED disk-winged bat from South America:

Metriorhynchus looked a lot like a whale even though it was a crocodile ancestor:

Show transcript:

Welcome to Strange Animals Podcast. I’m your host, Kate Shaw.

This week we’re going to learn about some animals that represent convergent evolution. That’s a term that I mention every so often, so it’s time to really dig into it and see what it’s all about. We’ll start with animals that are fairly closely related, then work our way backwards to those that aren’t related at all.

Basically, when unrelated organisms develop similar form, structure, or functions as each other, that’s called convergent evolution. One simple example is bats and birds. They’re not related, but both can fly using forelimbs that have been modified into wings.

This topic idea was sparked by an idea from Richard E., who suggested an episode about evolution and how it doesn’t “improve” anything, just adapts. That’s an important distinction. Evolution is a reactive force, not a proactive. Sometimes we use terms like advanced to describe certain animals, and primitive to describe others with traits that haven’t changed in a long time. That implies that some animals are “better” than others, or better adapted. In actuality, one trait is not better or worse than another, as long as both traits help the animal survive and thrive. If an animal has traits that haven’t changed in millions of years but it’s still doing well, it’s as adapted as it needs to be. An animal that’s extremely specialized to an environment can sometimes be much more vulnerable to environmental change than a more generalized animal, too.

From a scientific point of view, while it may look like species become more advanced as time goes on, all it means is that a lot of animals have evolved to occupy specific ecological niches. One example Richard gives is the panda, which we talked about in episode 42 about strange bears.

The panda is an extremely specialized animal. It’s a bear that is no longer a carnivore, for one thing, and not only does it not eat meat, or hardly any meat since it will eat small animals and bird eggs when it finds them, it mostly just eats one type of plant. That plant, of course, is bamboo, which is low in nutrients. The panda has adapted in all sorts of ways to be able to digest bamboo, and one of the most obvious adaptations is what looks like a sixth toe on its forefeet. It’s not a toe but a projecting sesamoid bone that acts as a toe and helps the panda grasp bamboo.

But the panda’s sixth toe evolved because of selective pressures, because pandas born with the toe were able to eat more bamboo and were therefore healthier and more likely to have babies than pandas without the toe.

Richard also mentioned the similarities between jaguars and leopards. They are related, but not closely. The jaguar is more closely related to the leopard than to the lion, but the leopard is more closely related to the lion than to the jaguar. That’s not confusing at all. But both cats look very similar, tawny or golden in color with black spots called rosettes, and both frequently demonstrate an all-black coloring called melanism. But the jaguar lives in the Americas while the leopard lives in Asia and parts of Africa. Why do they look so similar?

In this case, a big part of the similarities between jaguars and leopards are that they share a common ancestor that lived around three and a half million years ago. The jaguar migrated from Africa into Europe and then into North America on the land bridge Beringia, while the leopard mostly stayed put but expanded its territory into Asia. New research into feline genetics suggests that the jaguar interbred with lions at some point, which gave it a heavier build and stronger jaws than the leopard.

But leopards and jaguars look very different from other big cats, and very similar to each other. This is where convergent evolution comes in. Leopards and jaguars live in similar habitats, dense forests and jungle where light is dim and filtered through leaves. A spotted animal is harder to see where there’s a lot of dappled shade, and an all-black animal is harder to see when there’s not a lot of light. Melanistic jaguars, those that are all-black, are extremely common, and melanistic leopards are more common in populations living in thicker forests than in populations that live in more open forests with more light.

Leopards and jaguars share a genus, Panthera, which means they’re pretty closely related. But Llewelly suggested we talk about sucker-footed and disk-winged bats, and while they’re both microbats, they’re much less closely related than jaguars and leopards. And they share a really weird adaptation for climbing on smooth leaves.

The sucker-footed bat lives in Madagascar, the big island off the coast of Africa that’s full of lemurs. Madagascar is also home to a tree called the traveler’s palm, although it’s not actually a palm tree. It’s an amazing tree with huge leaves that grow in a fan shape. I don’t mean the tree has a lot of leaves growing in fan shapes, I mean the main part of the tree is one giant fan of enormous leaves. The leaves can be 36 feet long, or 11 meters, and some trees can grow 100 feet high, or 30 meters. It’s supposedly called the traveler’s palm because the fan tends to grow along an east-west line so it gets the most sun, or possibly because the stems catch and hold rainwater that thirsty travelers could drink. Its white flowers are pollinated by ruffed lemurs and it has bright blue seeds. But the traveler’s palm also has extremely smooth leaves, and the sucker-footed bat roosts on the leaves. But the leaves are so slick and smooth that most insects can’t even hold on to them. How does a bat manage it?

As you may have guessed from the name, the sucker-footed bat has little cuplike pieces of skin on its thumb joint and its feet that excrete lots of sweat-like fluid. The bat presses the cups against the leaf and they act just like suction cups, although the main suction comes from wet adhesion. You know how a suction cup holds better if you lick it first? That’s pretty much how it works. Also, hey kids, don’t lick suction cups, they’re dirty. Also don’t drink rainwater out of leaves, that sounds clean but it’s full of dirt and drowned bugs.

The sucker-footed bat roosts head-up instead of hanging upside-down, only one of six species known to roost head-up. It’s about two inches long, or 5 cm, and eats insects. Because it mostly only roosts in the traveler’s palm and is mostly solitary, it doesn’t carry any parasites in its fur or on its skin. Parasites can’t walk across those slick leaves.

The disk-winged bat, meanwhile, lives in the tropical parts of Central and South America. Like the sucker-footed bat, it has cuplike discs made of skin and cartilage on its thumbs and feet that act as suction cups. It roosts head-up in smooth curled-up leaves, generally in small groups. But its suction cups are different from the sucker-footed bat’s. They actually use suction to stay in place, whereas the sucker-footed bat’s suction cups mostly just use wet adhesion from the sweat it produces, with the actual suction being weak and not really necessary.

So let’s back it up some more and look at two animals that have evolved in similar directions that aren’t related. Like crocodiles and whales, or at least a crocodile relative and modern dolphins.

Metriorhynchids [met-ree-oh-rink-id] were croc relatives that lived around 150 million years ago, about 100 million years before whales and their relatives evolved. Metriorhynchids were marine animals, and while we don’t know a whole lot about them since we don’t have very many fossils, we do know that they grew up to ten feet long, or three meters, and lived in the ocean.

Metriorhynchus ate fish, ammonites, and whatever else it could catch, and it was a fast swimmer. It was streamlined with a long snout, smooth skin instead of armored, and even had a finned tail sort of like a shark’s that probably provided its propulsion through the water. It had four long flippers to help it maneuver.

In other words, in a lot of ways it looked like a dolphin, because it was so well adapted to live in the same environment. Whales and their relations have streamlined shapes, smooth bodies to reduce drag in the water, fluked tails, and flippers. Even the shape of metriorhynchus’s snout mirrors the longer rostrums that some dolphins have evolved to help them catch prey.

Finally, let’s look at convergent evolution between two animals that look totally different, are totally unrelated, but which share one similar feature. If you guessed primates and parrots, you are correct!

Specifically, this is about how the brain manages higher-order processing. In other words, intelligence. Primates, including humans, have an enlarged section of the brain called the pontine nuclei that transfers information between the brain’s cortex and cerebellum, allowing primates to process information in a more sophisticated way than most other mammals studied. But parrots and a lot of other birds are also intelligent, and researchers have recently discovered how their brains do the same thing.

Instead of a big pontine nuclei, birds use a part of the brain called the medial spiriform nucleus that performs the same transfer of information from the cortex and the cerebellum. In intelligent birds like parrots, that part of the brain is very large, five times larger than it is in chickens. I’m sorry, chickens, you’re very pretty birds and taste delicious, but you’re not known for your high-level reasoning abilities.

So convergent evolution is more than just two animals that evolve to look or act similar because they live in the same environment. In fact, there’s so much to convergent evolution that there’s no way I can do more than brush along the surface of the topic in a single episode. It might be a fun topic to revisit now and then.

In the meantime, now you know a little bit about what convergent evolution is. Just remember that if you explain it to a parrot, it’s processing your information with a totally different part of its brain than you are. That’s pretty awesome.

You can find Strange Animals Podcast online at strangeanimalspodcast.com. We’re on Twitter at strangebeasties and have a facebook page at facebook.com/strangeanimalspodcast. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email us at strangeanimalspodcast@gmail.com. If you like the podcast and want to help us out, leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or whatever platform you listen on. We also have a Patreon if you’d like to support us that way.

Thanks for listening!

 


Episode 042: Mystery Bears



This week we’re going to learn about bears, including a bunch of m y s t e r y  b e a r s!

Hi! I am a panda bear!

A polar bear:

A spectacled bear:

A baby spectacled bear OMG LOOK AT THAT BABY:

The giant short-faced bear was indeed giant:

Further reading:

Shuker Nature

Show transcript:

Welcome to Strange Animals Podcast. I’m your host, Kate Shaw.

I’m in the mood for a bona fide mystery animal, and I bet you are too. So this week let’s learn about some mystery bears.

There are eight species of bears alive today that we know of: brown, polar, spectacled, sloth, sun, Asian and American black bears, and the giant panda. The other ones you may have heard of, like grizzlies, are subspecies of those eight. For a long time pandas were not considered bears at all, but more closely related to raccoons. These days they’re definitely in the bear box, but they’ve evolved in a completely different direction from other bears for some 19 million years, which is why they’re so different.

Before we get into the mysteries, let’s talk about just how different pandas are from other bears. As you probably know, the panda eats bamboo almost exclusively, unlike all other bears which are either omnivorous or, in the case of the polar bear, carnivorous. To survive on bamboo, the panda has evolved a lot of unusual adaptations. The front paws, for instance, have five toes just like all bears, and also a thumb. The thumb is actually a modified wrist bone that juts out from the base of the paw and helps the panda hold bamboo stalks as it eats the leaves.

Bamboo is not very nutritious. It’s certainly low in protein, especially considering that while the panda eats almost nothing but bamboo, it still has the digestive system of a carnivore. Special microbes in the panda’s intestines help break down the bamboo so the panda can digest it, but it takes a lot of bamboo to provide the energy a panda needs. A panda eats 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo leaves, stems, and shoots every day, or 9-14 kg, which means it also poops a whole lot. Seriously, it poops something like 40 times a day. And it still doesn’t have a lot of energy. It mostly just sits around eating and pooping. But while the panda just chews leaves all the time, it still has bear fangs and it will eat meat and eggs when it can. Researchers think that the panda only became exclusively a bamboo eater about two million years ago.

The panda lives in the mountains of China in only a few places. It used to also live in the lowlands but farming and other development drove it into more remote areas. There are about 50 pandas in captivity these days and somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 pandas in the wild, with the population finally increasing after laws protecting pandas from poaching started to be enforced.

The people of China knew about the panda for centuries, although they were considered rare and elusive even in the olden days, but it wasn’t until 1869 that anyone from outside of China had a clue that gigantic roly-poly black and white bamboo-eating six-toed bears were real. Seriously, would you believe that? In 1869 a French missionary and naturalist bought a dead panda from some hunters, dissected it to study, and sent the skin to a zoologist friend in Paris.

So it’s possible that there are other mystery bears out there, known to the locals who don’t realize their bears are special, just waiting to be spotted by someone who knows a thing or two about bears.

In 1920 a Swedish scientist named Sten Bergman was shown the pelt of a bear by locals during an expedition to the Kamchatka Peninsula. That’s in the very eastern part of Russia on the Pacific coast and is sparsely populated. It’s mountainous with a cluster of active volcanos and it’s well known for the brown bears that live in the area. The Kamchatka brown bears are among the largest brown bear subspecies in the world, almost the size of the closely related Kodiak brown bear. When it stands on its hind legs it can be almost ten feet tall, or 3 meters. It’s mostly harmless to humans. Mostly. It hardly ever kills people. Just, you know, occasionally. The Kamchatka brown bears have long brown fur, sometimes pale brown but usually a sort of medium brown. They’re certainly not black. But the pelt that Dr. Bergman was shown was jet black and had short fur. But it was definitely a bear pelt, and the pelt was definitely enormous—much larger than a brown bear pelt. Bergman also saw a huge skull supposedly from one of the black bears, and a paw print 15” long and 10” wide, or 38 cm by 25 ½ cm.

Unfortunately none of the giant black bears have turned up since, living or dead. It’s possible that the bear was an unusually large brown bear with anomalous fur. Brown bears do have considerable variability in both the color and length of their fur, so it’s not out of the question that occasionally a brown bear is born that is actually black. It’s also possible that this black bear is actually a different species of bear, but that it’s either gone extinct or is extremely rare and only lives in far remote areas of Siberia these days.

But the Kamchatka Peninsula has another mystery bear for us to ponder. In 1987 a hunter named Rodion Sivolobov bought a giant white bear skin from locals. It looked like a big polar bear pelt, but the locals assured him it was from a very specific, very rare type of local bear.

They called it the irkuiem and described it as large but with a relatively small head, relatively short hind legs, and an unusual method of running. It supposedly runs in a sort of rocking motion, bringing both hind legs up to the forelegs, then throwing the forelegs forward together to start a new stride–more like a rabbit’s bounding run than a bear’s typical gait.

Sivolobov sent samples of the pelt to various zoologists in Russia, but they said there wasn’t much they could determine without a skull. But with DNA testing so much more advanced these days, it would be REALLY NICE if Sivolobov would get right on that and get his white bear pelt tested. If it really exists and if he’s not scared he was sold a marked-up polar bear skin with a tall tale.

The polar bear lives in the Arctic and is so closely related to the brown bear that the two species occasionally crossbreed when their range overlaps. Technically polar bears are marine mammals since they hunt seals on sea ice and spend a lot of time in the water. Sometimes a polar bear will drift for long distances on a piece of sea ice, or may swim for days, crossing hundreds of miles of ocean.

Polar bear feet are huge, around 12 inches wide or 30 cm, which helps keep the bear from sinking in the snow since its weight is more widely distributed on broad paws. Think snowshoes. Broad feet also helps it swim faster. The paw pads are bumpy so it’s less likely to slip on ice, and the claws are short and strong for digging in snow and ice. The polar bear stays warm because its body is heavily insulated with fat, plus its fur is thick with a soft undercoat that insulates so well that polar bears really are virtually invisible to heat-sensing radar. Male polar bears grow long fur on their forelegs, apparently because lady polar bears find that attractive. Unlike most other bears, polar bears don’t hibernate.

Georg Wilhelm Steller was a German naturalist who took part in explorations of Kamchatka Peninsula and other areas. He’s the guy that Steller’s sea-cow is named after and one day it’s getting its own episode. Anyway, in 1751 Steller wrote a book called, in English, Beasts of the Sea, and in it he mentions a report of a white sea-bear. He didn’t see it himself, but here’s his account, which I’ve taken from Karl Shuker’s excellent blog ShukerNature. I’ll link to it in the show notes.

Here’s the quote:

“Report, as I gather from the account of the people, has declared that the sea-bear, as it is called by the Rutheni and other people is different. They say it is an amphibious sea beast very like a bear, but very fierce, both on land and in the water. They told likewise, that in the year 1736 it had overturned a boat and torn two men to pieces; that they were very much alarmed when they heard the sound of its voice, which was like the growl of a bear, and that they fled from their chase of the otter and seals on the sea and hastened back to land. They say that it is covered with white fur; that it lives near the Kuril Islands, and is more numerous toward Japan; that here it is seldom seen. I myself do not know how far to believe this report, for no one has ever seen one, either slain or cast up dead upon the shore.”

Shuker suggests that this report may actually be of a fur seal, which is found in the area and has sometimes been called a sea-bear. Then again, fur seals aren’t white. They’re gray or brown and would appear darker in the water.

The Kuril Islands are a string of 56 volcanic islands that stretch between the northeastern tip of Hokkaido, Japan to the southern tip of Kamchatka Peninsula, a distance of about 810 miles, or 1300 km. Some of the largest islands are inhabited by brown bears, but it’s far from the Arctic. Polar bears get overheated easily in warmer areas, so a population of polar bears—or even a stray one—is unlikely that far south.

There are also stories of pure white bears in the forests of Hubei province in China. It’s always possible this is a garbled account of the panda, but maybe not.

In 1864, Inuit hunters supposedly killed a huge bear with yellowish fur. Naturalist Roderick McFarlane acquired the skin and skull and sent them to the Smithsonian, which promptly lost them. That’s the story, anyway. In fact, the Smithsonian did misplace the skin and skull for a while, but zoologist Clinton Hart Merriam found and examined them. He decided it was a new species of bear due to the skull’s odd shape and the light tan color of the fur.

Older polar bears do tend to have yellowish fur so maybe that’s all this bear was. But it might have been something else. As I mentioned earlier, polar bears and various subspecies of brown bear do sometimes crossbreed and produce fertile young. It’s rare, but it happens occasionally both in the wild and in captivity. The resulting babies show traits of both polar bears and brown bears, and tend to be pale brown or tan in color with darker brown paws. Then again, there’s a MonsterQuest episode that I haven’t actually seen where a paleontologist examines the McFarlane skull and states it’s just that of a young female brown bear.

For having only eight species, bears are remarkably widespread and vary considerably in diet and appearance. The sloth bear mostly eats insects, for instance. It lives in India and has shaggy black fur with a pale muzzle and white claws, big floppy ears, and a white V-shaped mark on the chest. It lacks upper incisors, which helps it slurp up insects.

Sloth bears are actually pretty darn awesome. Males often help raise the cubs and mothers carry their babies around on their backs. The sloth bear doesn’t hibernate, probably because it doesn’t really get cold where it lives.

The spectacled bear lives in South America. It’s the last close relative of the giant short-faced bear that went extinct about 11,000 years ago. The spectacled bear is mostly black, although some individuals may appear brown or reddish, and most but not all have lighter markings on the face and chest. Its head is much less bearlike than other bears, with a rounded face and short snout. It mostly eats plants and lives in the Andes Mountains and surrounding areas. It spends a lot of time in trees, and will even build a little platform in a tree to sleep on or store food on.

And you know what? Paddington Bear is modeled on the spectacled bear.

The spectacled bear is not especially scary. Its relative, the giant short-faced bear, was another story. It lived in North America, especially in California, and its remains have been found in the La Brea tar pits. But it also lived as far south as Mississippi. And it was huge. It was simply enormous. It stood up to 6 feet at the shoulder, or 1.8 meters, and twice that when standing on its hind legs. One website I read pointed out that regulation height for a basketball rim is ten feet, which means a giant short-faced bear could dunk the ball every time without doing anything more strenuous than standing up. It was probably an omnivore like most modern bears, but we have mastodon bones that show tooth marks from the short-faced bear.

Naturally, as with just about any extinct animal, people keep hoping they’re not really extinct and occasionally someone reports seeing a giant short-faced bear. Some cryptozoologists speculate that the Kamchatka Peninsula mystery bears may actually be short-faced bears, but since short-faced bear fossils have only been found in North America, it’s probably not likely that there would be any living in Russia. Besides, the short-faced bear would have looked very different from the brown bear, probably shaped more like a colossal spectacled bear. Locals would definitely notice the difference. Moreover, it’s not likely to live in the same area that already has a population of brown bears, since both animals would then be competing for the same resources.

Personally, while the giant short-faced bear is awesome to imagine, I’m perfectly happy with it not wandering around in the forests. Because I like to hike. And I worry enough about the relatively small and harmless American black bear as it is.

You can find Strange Animals Podcast online at strangeanimalspodcast.com. We’re on Twitter at strangebeasties and have a facebook page at facebook.com/strangeanimalspodcast. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email us at strangeanimalspodcast@gmail.com. If you like the podcast and want to help us out, leave us a rating and review on iTunes or whatever platform you listen on. We also have a Patreon if you’d like to support us that way.

Thanks for listening!