Saturday, 21 May 2011

Ancient bones those of brown bear - BBC News 1st May 2009

An almost complete skeleton recovered after years of work from a cave in the Scottish Highlands has been confirmed as that of a male brown bear.

The pieces of bone were recovered by cavers exploring a network of caves at Inchnadamph in Sutherland.

Previously the remains of a polar bear were found at the site.

The National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh said tests have established the most recent bones found were those from a brown bear.

The first pieces were discovered in 1995 by cavers exploring a network of caves at Inchnadamph in Sutherland.

But it was only last year that caving club, Grampian Speleological Group, reached some of the final fragments.

Cave divers spent 12 years crawling through narrow spaces and moving soil to unblock entrances in their effort to recover all that they could of the bear.

The Edinburgh-based club's Ivan Young said last year the operation had taken hard work and intense effort.

The remains found included the skull, the second lower mandible, fragments of upper mandible, vertebrae, ribs, most of the long bones, the main elements making up the pelvis, and several elements from the feet.

About 70 to 80% of the animal's remains were retrieved from the caves.

It was previously thought the bear may have died 11,000 years ago.

In February, a sample taken from what are believed to be the only polar bear remains to have been found in Britain has defied DNA analysis, it has emerged.

Ireland-based genetics expert Ceiridwen Edwards had hoped to compare the DNA of the animal found in a cave in Scotland with that of modern polar bears.

However, she said there was not enough DNA left in the sample for an analysis to be done.

The sample was taken from a skull found in the Bone Caves at Inchnadamph.

It was thought the bear was washed into the caves 18,000 years ago.

The skull was found in 1927 and is held in the collections of the National Museums of Scotland.

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