Scientists extract ancient DNA from 32,000-year-old bear skull


Photo of a brown bear skull - not the same skull used in the study

A brown bear skull (Not the same skull used in the new study) (Image credit: Shutterstock )

DNA extracted from a 32,500-year-old bear skull hints that ice age brown bears migrated to Honshu, Japan’s largest island and lived near present-day Tokyo before eventually dying out.

Today, Japan’s only brown bears (Ursus arctos) live in Hokkaido, the northernmost island in the Japanese archipelago. Evidence suggests that the ancestors of these bears migrated to the island from Sakhalin, an island just north of Hokkaido that is now part of present-day Russia. The bears likely lumbered over a land bridge that connected Sakhalin and Hokkaido at various points in the Pleistocene, a time period that lasted from 2.6 million to about 11,700 years ago.