The cave bear was a prominent member of the Upper Pleistocene fauna in Eurasia. While breakthroughs were recently achieved with respect to its phylogeny using ancient DNA techniques, it is still challenging to date cave bear fossils beyond the radiocarbon age range. Without an accurate and precise chronological framework, however, key questions regarding the palaeoecology cannot be addressed, such as the extent to which large climate swings during the last glacial affected the habitat and possibly even conditioned the final extinction of this mammal. Key to constraining the age of cave bear fossils older than the lower limit of radiocarbon dating is to date interlayered speleothems using 230Th/U. Here we report new results from one such site in the Eastern European Alps (Schwabenreith Cave), which yielded the highest density of bones of cave bear (Ursus spelaeus eremus). Although dating of the flowstones overlying this fossiliferous succession was partly compromised by diagenetic alteration, the 230Th/U dates indicate that the bear hibernated in this cave after about 113 ka and before about 109 ka. This time interval coincides with the equivalent of Greenland Stadial 25, suggesting possible climate control on the cave bear's habitat and behaviour.
- Th/U dating
- cave bear
- early last glacial
- Eastern Alps
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)