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Evolution Of The Polar Bear Essay

1377 words - 6 pages

Ursidae is a young family, evolving from early canids during the late Oligocene and early Miocene epochs, about 20-25 million years ago. The phylogenetic tree as shown on the power point shows the evolutionary and ancestry relationships among the different bear species. I am going to talk to you today about four of the different species that were discovered before they eventually evolved into what we know today as the polar bear. These five species include Miacids, Cephalogale, Ursus elemensis, Ursus Minimis and Ursus Etruscus. The polar bear has adapted and evolved accordingly to the many selection pressures it has encountered. The Sea ice of the Arctic Ocean and the connected frozen seas ...view middle of the document...

As trees and vegetation were essential parts of the Miacids survival they had to turn to preying on smaller animals like lizards for survival. As a result of this surrounding change the Miacids developed specialised teeth for shearing flesh and bones called carnassials, as a structural adaptation to their diet (Miacids, 2011).
Now that we have talked about the Miacids the next species on the phylogenetic tree is the Cephalogale. The Cephalogale was around in the late Oligocene epoch which is approximately 36 million years ago. The climate in this particular epoch became quite cold, Antarctica was freezing up slowly. The more land that froze, the more the land was being exposed to dry air. The tropics diminished giving way to cooler woodlands and grasslands (Shumacher, R, 2011). The Cephalogale was regarded as a raccoon size, dog like creature which was the most primitive of all the species it was once considered to be the ancestor of all bears. Due to the expansion of grassland finding smaller mammals to prey on became an issue as the vegetation surrounding them changed the Cephalogale began to gradually turn into omnivores. Due to this change in habitat and diet they developed bear like teeth structures this meant a reduction of the carnassials.
During the Miocene epoch which is approximately 24 million years ago the climate became even colder in a massive “global calling” and vegetation began to spread more widely throughout the world (Shumacher, R, 2011). Ursavus elemensis was around in this particular time. Their premolars are still maintained and still inhabit the same sharp slicing characteristics from their ancestors. The carnassials on the other hand are not as sharp as their ancestors this is due to the spreading of vegetation around them, manipulating the Ursavus elemensis to slowly transition into a more omnivorous diet. The Ursavus elemensis still has its small body and physical traits before its recent evolution, on the other hand it has enlarged into body mass this is a success as the increase in body mass will help with keeping warm and hibernation as the weather is getting cooler.
During the mid-Miocene approximately 10-12 million years ago, the Ursavus elemensis evolved into a new species Ursus minimus. As the name suggest Ursus minimus indicates that it was a small bear that generally increased in size during its existence having many similarities to the modern black bear only weighing about 100 pounds. Its full set of sharp premolars from its ancestor are still engaged but their molars and premolars have moved away from almost totally shearing meat and have increased in surface area and size to increase the chewing surface as the grasslands keep taking over the forests.
The Mid-Miocene slowly transitions into the Pliocene epoch. The Pliocene epoch is approximately 5 million years ago. During this time the Ursus minimus evolved into the Ursus estrucus. The Ursus estrucus is no longer a small bear it has...

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