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Parictis

Meet the Parictis genus. The eight species found within it are the oldest known bears in the world, dating back between 38 and 33 million years.

Polar bears have skulls 6 times longer
than those of their Parictis ancestors!
These ancient bears first appeared in North America around 38 million years ago, during the Late Eocene. By the time the early Miocene rolled around a few million years later, different species had spread to Europe and Africa, with some presence in Asia as well.

Parictis bears were very small, like the size of small dogs. They had skulls that measured only a few inches long! There is still a whole lot to learn about these ancestors to the giant bears of today, as the only fossils found have been very fragmentary. (I couldn't even find a photo or reconstruction image!) Even still, it's always amazing to think about how much things have changed over time-- from a 3in skull to one nearly a foot and a half long!

Status : Extinct for around 33 million years
Location : North America, Europe, Africa
Size :  Skull size around 3in (8cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Ursidae -- Genus : Parictis

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